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'65J Easi Main Str* 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



BOOKS BY 
CHARLES CLARK MUTSN 

nileiK TERRY. A S.o,y „, u.. M.,„. c«., 

ROCKHAVER ^ 

"lmlra,.dbi,f,.,„kT..\t„r,U. «, „ 
THE HERMIT. A Story „, ,h. waj.„„. 

'"•""■•'■'' h A. B.Shulr. ,,.,„ 
THE OIRl FROU TIM'S PLACE 

'"•"•""'<> h Frank T. \t„rm. «, ,„ 
MYRTLE BALDWIB ' 

'""''■■■'I'd by ir,„y Koll,. ,,.,„ 
THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

BOYHOOD DAYS OH THE FARM A «.„„ . 
Voung „d OW Boy. "' * ^'""^ '" 

'"<"t,„M by Frank T. MnriU. s, „ 
Iliustr.Ued by If,lr . // .-.a .l 



iylluPuilhhtr, ""'t^' 

LOTHROP, LEE 4 SHEPARD CO., BOSTON 




'•''■'■'■'■ ^^■•'•^ •»■*>«>« CIMKOK N„w.-. 



P"U<' 70. 



THE 

CASTLE BUILDERS 




Published, August, 1910 



COPVK,GHT,,„0,BVLOT„HOP,LKH&SH...K„CO. 



^U rights reserved 
The Castle Builders 



BERWICK & SMITH CO. 

NORWOOD, MASS., 
U. S. A. 



PREFACE 

A few men awe us by their dauntless courage far 

v.s.on, pnmal force, and power of leadership. M^n 

who blaze their way where never highway ral " 

Many „,ore chann us by wi, humor, and abili Jto 

d-scover and express the droll side of ordinarv 

Rambowv.,le is still on the map of our lives It 

uld a 1 h '"' '^'^^^•^'^^ ■■" '"'^ book, and 

tHetrrtX-;"'''^"^easthebasisof 

are Wd V ."S " "^" ''^'"^^'^ ''^ ^" -^° 
as he has br :; , ra?:fT"r ■ ^"' '"^^'""^'^ 
a pessimistic mtd so do it^T "^ "" "^"^ 
readers. ' so do I hope he may to my 

Charles Cl.ark Munn. 



J'. ••A'" '^mmirm^ 



ILLUSTRATIONS 

vs... AS. xooK CH.HOK «ow (Page ;o, . . ^,„„,^,,,, 

One, SXACV HHCOGMZEO OK THE «ST^.; ' ' " ' ^^ 
"Ze AWFUL TIME AS NEVER VAS" ■ • • 106 

SHE^SAW^MAETHA KKEE..O « EHO.T OE THE E.h'. "^ 

"MHBBE VO. .E CALXaT,.: Tci MAEHV HEH, THOUGH .•. 2 

A SCDFPLE OP FEET nAv^rx,^ „ ' ' ■ • 37° 

"-IT DA^CING ON A BOARD 

• . . 454 



M"-: "r 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

CHAPTER I 

nd ught h,s way through the Mohawk- 
Dnared morass of Bear Hr,l. c 
sibly in pursuit of trout in ealifv 1 ""'' T"' 
suitable site for a dam Lh ^ P^°^P^«'"g for a 

trie power to Barre 7 t "°"' '° ^"^P'^ ^l^^ 
away bey ./ ' '°''' "'^ ^°"«^^" ""es 

lost hi. i '■''"^' °f mountains. He had 

-sooth2ru.r^-;f<^---^need,es. 

such consolation disclosed Tn '^ .''"'"^■-'"■'- °f 
J-we. abutting ;t:i :,:-'- j--head 

^-th.s and mingling With the softSt^t^ 
I 



'■"V'lf ..111^'^j:- 



\ \ 



3 TIIIC CASTLI. BUILDERS 

grcc,, ciMopy alxnc l,im came the faint, metallic 
I'''">< I'l.Mk •■ of son,c ,m,sical instm.nent. So 
we.rd a,„l witching was it-ahnost uncanny - 
that he stood stock-still, even forgetting his half- 
starvcl con<lition for a moment. Then, as the mur- 
nuir of the pines died auay. the ghostly melody 
resolved .tself into the old familiar plantation tune 
of Don t You Hear Dem Bells A-Ringing? " 

For fully five minutes Stacy stood almost breath- 
less to catch this strangely sweet old-time melody 
famt m the distance, then step by step crept onward 
Ten, twenty, thirty rods, and he nalted again, for 
just ahead in the open sat a girl, leaning against the 
tnmk of a monster pine, and holding in her lap an 
auto-harp. 

A sin,ply.made, well-fitting calico dress enclosed 
her damtily rounded form, two low tan shoes 
pomted their toes upward, a broad sun-hat lay be- 
s.de her; her face, sweet, sun-tanned, yet dreamy 
from soul-absorption in her tuusic. was bent over 
her harp, while two small hands swept back and 
forth across its strings. So charming was this pic- 
ture that Stacy forgot the rudeness of his act and 
watched ,t for a long minute of almost trance. 
Then he strode forward out of the thicket with a 
Beg pardon, don't be scared," to save her from 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



H.S effort failed, I.owever. for with a scream that 
was almost of fear, she tossed the harp aside, sprang 
up,^bounded a rod away, ,l,en turried an.l faced him 
_ Dont be frightened, please," he added assur- 
■ngly, and bowing now, as he raised his cap " I 
am only a harmless fisherman just escape.l 'from 
the swamp back there, and nearly starved." Then 
glancng towards the roof of an old brown house 
barely v.s.ble below them, he continued. "Do you 
thmk I can buy something to eat at your home, as 
i suppose It is, down there?" 

"I g-guess so," she stammered, still watching 
h.m w,th wide-open, fathomless eyes. And now 
as h.s n,ud-splashed, scratched, yet open and smil- 
ing face reassured her, a smile came to hers. 

That ,s my home, sir," sh.e continued with dig- 
mty now, 'and I presume mother will find some- 
thing for you." 

And now, as man and maid stood watching one 
another, Stacy smiling genially as was his fvont, 

•• But you did give me an awful fright," she said. 

know ,t, he returned humbly now, "but I 

d-dn t mean to. I .„, ,„ _, „„, ^, ^^^ ^.^^ 

And so these two, Mi..s Hazel Webster, a keen- 



4 THK CASTLF. BUILDERS 

witted, sweetly simple country ,i,I n^cl twenty- 
one and Stacy Whipple, a polished city-bred man 
of Inrty first n.et. And neither rea.iml how the 
shuttle of f.te and fortune was destined to weave 
mto their lives the warp and woof of human happi- 
ness and human suffering. 

Just then however, food was of more account 
than even the fairest of r.stic maids to Stacy, so 
vth another bow and tip of cap to this one, he 
turned and left her. A few rods down the open 
past.re n ,d a tall, bent old man. wieldin^r a hoe in 
a potato field beside it, caught his eye. To him. as 
the^hkehest one to obtain food frotn, Stacy now 

" Good morning, sir," he said with his usual form 
of address, whatever tl-.e time of day "I am a 
ha,f-starved man just escaped from an all-day 
scramble through Bear Hole Swamp," he added, as 
he farmer looked up, " and will pay well for some- 
thing to eat. Can you do anything for me ' " 

' J, ye look it," answered Uncle Asa, smiling 
at h,m „ ,th keen, kindly blue eyes. " B'ar Hole's 
a tough un to tackle, speshly by a city feller ez I 
see you be. I guess we kin fix ye up suthin'," he 
cont.nued now leading the way toward the House 
Cotnc along, n' I'll see what Martha kin do " 
My name's Whipple. Stacy Whipple from Al- 






THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



W ! . . ^ '° ''"=■"' = ^^"^^ broolc-trout fish 
•ng. and ,he landlonl of your hotel set ne at , . ' 

~. and into the worst swa.p thai L".^ 

-co„e.sa«ef^ot;?itrrr," 

t'rook's full o„ 'em 'n' in 1 "°'' 

fust tin tlnfs etrT' , 1 ^^ ^"- ^°" '-"■"'' ">^ 
You kn b«% t°"' ""^ ^'^'y '""<^'' bushed. 

'bout V Sid r: 'T "''"'■"' "" ^'">' """^■"' 

-thev,,ea^df,:et:;r^' '■'-«''•' "■>^«'i 

spILfkS^L ""''"';" '"''''^'™-»'^'' - 
fishenren S • "S:" '? ''^^^■^' -^-'-V. - all 
--ob.,;^,,,:;-;^-„hott.theswa.p 

^^al, ye done well," asserted jr„rU i 
an accent of praise an,l 1 "*^'' '""'^'f Asa with 

ter-n n,ost ''""''"'' P"P »»° '''e basket. " Bet- 
-^t do. One o yottrs'll weigh n.ost a 



, •iiL-JF' ■.rf-'wRMwr-Ea* -"irr'. 



i 
1 



6 rUK CASTLE BUILDERS 

po.in<I. Jist yot. keep still 'tout the swamp when 
yoi, g,( back-, •„• you-ll kimler spile Sam's la.iRh at 
ye. He's got it waitin' fer ye, siirc's a Run " 

1 hen this l.,val.le old r.oo,| Samaritan led the 
miKl-soiled Stacy into a back kitchen where there 
was a stone sink and fancet for . ,ning water 
brought a cake of toilet soap and clean towel, and 
returned tr the next or main kitchen of this antique 
abode. 

Martha," he said pleasantly (and overheard by 
Stacy), " I've fetched a man in who's 'most starved. 
What kin ye do for him.?" 

_ " Why, I kin git him some bread 'n' butter I 
spose," came the accidental answer; " thar ain't no 
cold meat in the house." 

" Ye might fry him a sli, o' ham, Martha " . 
turned Uncle Asa in soothing tone, " 'n' I'll dres' 
him a few o' his trout; he's perty hungry " 

" Me fry trout this hot afternoon ? Guess not ! " 
growled Martha. 

" But ye might," persisted (. cle Asa soothingh 
He seems a pic -ant sort o' leller. A stranger 
who come here a fishin'. Don't be frettv, Marthn 
I'll start the fire. Whar's Hazel ? " 

"Whar she alius is when wanted," came the 
•sharp rejoinder. •' A-plinkin' on that new contrap- 



THE CASTLE DUILDERS 



if 



«on you bon,l,t her. i„ some shady spo,,Vlcavi„- 
mc lo (lu the work." 

And that brief yet qnit.. p,r,i„ent ,lialo^u,e now 
d.scIosed the domestic „a, of this family to St: 
as fully as an hot.r's history of it could have dorte 

rte also soon caught sight of a fairly comely 
woman of middle age and red hair through an open 

the back one. saw the irirl he hu^l p.,,, 

sud enly now enter the house, and then he refre ted 

to t e shade of a maple beneath which stood a 

grnta to be out of hearing of any further do- 
mestic exchanges. 

"Can-t be she's her mother." he muftercl. seat- 
ing himse f here "It ,i„„. v ^ '. »eai 
A.,^.1 r doesnt seem possible." 
And then after half ,„ ,,o., ,„„ ,„^^^ ^^ 

upon the ntutual relationship of tl,ese thre. ^ e' 

he was ,nv.ed into the living room of "Uncle' 
Asa so w„ al, over the town of Oakda; 

f°" °^ "'^ ^'"^'^■^••'■d Hazel, now dressed in wite 

se :;nm ""; t ^"■■^^' -""-^ <"«--'^ ^s 

coffee -M ":. °' "'''" ^'^•^' ^S^-'- f^i«' fo^t, and 
coffee w,th a d.sh of field s,rawlH.>rries; all of which 

ever had been. No awkward diffidence on her 



I 



8 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



part, just an easy, pleasant urbanity and attention 
to his wants, a few polite inquiries as to his ex- 
periences that clay in the swamp, and for the rest 
he was left to do most of the talking. He had ex- 
pected her to be a shy and quite rural and rustic 
maid, but she proved herself a young lady of speech 
manners, and refinement quite above and beyond 
her surroundings. The quaint room with its worn 
rag-carpet, chintz-covered settle, and open fireplace 
added cliarm. He noticed the ancient brass fire 
dogs, and also a bunch of freshly picked lilacs in 
a pitcher minus the handle on the table set with 
very old blue china, while through the open win- 
dows came the sweet fragrance of apple blos- 
soms. All in ,11, a meal, a hostess, and a service 
quite charming and unexpected. 

And now a peculiar dilemma faced Stacy To 
ask this dignified young lady how much he owed 
for the meal, he dare not, nor even to tender her 
any payment. To leave such under his plate or go 
out to the field and offer it to Uncle Asa seemed 
equally out of place, and how to square himself for 
his entertainment was a problem. In the end, and 
after profuse thanks to the girl, or rather young 
lady, whom he now addressed as Miss Webster he 
bethought himself of the elder and sour-spoken 
Martha, stepped into her lair -the kitchen — and 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



-de ,„s exit. Outside, he glanced around tJe 

ney were, house moss-coated from age bam 
propped up by timbers, and in every resDecH h. 
-re ancient than Uncle Asa himsS' "h^m T: 
now saw back in his field, and once moTe Ll 
sought hfm before departing. ^"""^ 

" Ye war middlin' hungry, I caHate " ,„, 
Uncle Asa " '„> •.- f ' answered 

■'" '"«- "«'■ ■■■■ V0.1I .1,.. hi^ 47 ■ ° 

"»• IVe another ti.or to .,k !•„ u , 

now can t I mduce you to 



lO 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



go with me to-morrow to show the way? I'll pay 
you anything you'll accept for your time." 

" VVal, I might,- responded Uncle Asa, again 
sm.lmg; " jist you come 'round here arly to-morrow 
n well see what we kin find. I hain't ben 
troutm myself fer quite a spell 'n' I'd like a day 
ott. Then, as if his hoeing must now be finished 
he speedily turned to it again. 

Stacy also recognizing this, and glancing at the 
lowermg sun, bade him good-bye and betook him- 
self away down the maple-shaded lane, at tlie up- 
per end of which stood this ancient abode At it 
foot and where it joined the main road, he halted 
and looked back. 

"Nice old man," he said to himself aloud, "and 
one of Nature's noblemen. I'd like to know him 
better Likewise the girl. But that old woman 
was the hmit! She snatched that dollar as a hen 
would a kernel of corn. I'll bet the girl isn't her 
daughter, though." And then Stacy Whipple, erst- 
while evil engineer, later mine prospector in the 
Far West, now youngest partner in a firm able to 
carry out a million-dollar contract without uneasi- 
ness, and doing business in a distant city, turned 
away whistling. Nothing disturbed him much or 
excited him much. He had traveled widely and 
observmgly. Had met and studied men of all sorts 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS n 

and occupations. Knew the world as it is and its 
people, their vices and virtues, foibles and follies, 
and now at thirty was unscathed by any serious love 
affair, untainted by the underworld he had crossed 
and recrossed many times, a hater of shams, a lover 
of Nature, and a confirmed cynic. He was, how- 
ever, in the main a genial good fellow, generous to 
a fault, satisfied to remain a bachelor and make his 
home with a most excellent aunt whose hobby was 
house-pets and money invested in the firm of Bemis 
Colby, and Company, of which Stacy was junior 
partner. He also had still another and even more 
mterestmg peculiarity, and that was air-castle 
buildmg. No matter where he was or what in- 
terested him, the moment he had time for thought 
presto, up sprang one of those fantastic palaces, a 
Spanish chateau! He was perpetually erecting 
them m the path of his own future fo:.rnes, or of 
others as well. They tinged his day dreams, and 
often those by night, and . nee begun, hours were 
consumed in their completion. His own fate a.,d 
future as well as others' prospects were thus often 
outlmed by the same magic wand. He plotted and 
planned what to do himself and considered the fu- 
ture of others as freely, and for the same purpose, 
-merely an occupation of mind. And these day- 
dream castles, these always quite perfect plans and 



12 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



poss.b>ht.es, never failed to be luxurious, charm- 
ing, grand, and beautiful in form, color, and con- 
struction. And best of all, the soul-life of the 
people who dwelt in them was as much so. A quite 
■dylhc gathering of the best and noblest of men 
and women as companions for his future In a 
way h,s nature was a contradiction, and he might 
fairly be called a cynical optimist. 

Only one minor love episode had ever ruffled the 
smooth current of his life, a rather hectic and lurid 
one w.th a fair Spanish lady of dreamy eyes who 
was two years his senior in age, and ten in love 
expenence This " fool illusion," as he afterwards 
called It, lasted just eight months; its awakening 
was to find •' La Rosa Carmen " was not only lead 
ing him a Cupid's dance, but at the same time in- 
fatuatmg a music teacher who spent most of his 
earnmgs on her and let his wife and two children 
go with httle more than food and shelter. Stacy 
more worldly-wise than most men, did not even hint 
a reproach just packed his grip and hied himself 
away to the West without even a farewell note to 
his charmer. Neither did it take him long to re- 
cover from this episode, for he was one to whom 

^eart troubles so far had not been serious matrT 
He had come up to this sequestered bvway town 
located at the confluence of two streams,' shut in be 



J 

m 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 13 

tvveen ranges of mountains and four miles from 
the ocean -or at the end of an inlet called Elbow 
Creek — and ten miles from the nearest railroad 
station, as stated, to prospect for an available loca- 
tion for an electric light and power plant for the 
seaport of Barre. No hint of this must escape him 
until he had made due selection and report, also se- 
cured options; else the price of swamp lands would 
soar in Oakdale. This was his real mission here 
to fish was his excuse for it; and now, well away 
from Uncle Asa's home, with two hours more of 
daylight, he turned from the main road, crossed an 
upward slope of bush-grown pasture, and ascended 
io the top of a high hill to survey Oakdale. Back 
or this lay the pathless tangle of swamp he had 
crossed that day; at its foot and midway of a 
pocket between low hills, the ancient gambrel- 
roofed abode of Uncle Asa; to the westward, the 
widely scattered farmhouses of this hill-enclosed 
town, with a group of them and two churches mid- 
way of the valley, while far to southward lay the 
bordering ocean, white-capped and sparkling. The 
widely-apart houses were mostly brown and ancient 
like the one nearest him, patches of woods predomi- 
nated over open fields, and the entire impress of this 
hamlet was very rural, quite picturesque, and en- 
tirely peaceful. Life here was self -evidently akin 



14 



THE CASli-ii BUILDERS 



to the landscape, simple, quiet, and without excite- 
ment or current. And just now, viewing this and 
realizing this, his mission here and its probable out- 
come recurred to him. Also how, by the magic of 
a power he was to evoke from one of these streams, 
factories would arise, new people — workers in 
these' — crowd themselves into this quiet hamlet, a 
trolley line supplant the old-fashioned stage that 
brought him, and the great outside world come and 
take slow but sure possession. 

" It's a shame to spoil this sequestered nook," he 
said to himself as if prophesying, " but it can't be 
helped. It's the march of progress, the tide of 
change and innovation." Then glancing at the sun, 
nt glowing blood-red through the green trees of a 
low mountain top, he made his way down into the 
valley. 

And just previous to this occurred another inci- 
dent of this narrative which concerns the relations 
of Miss Hazel Webster and her step-mother 
Martha who, as the townsfolk all said, were " alius 
at swords' points," as might be expected. Hazel 
had witnessed through the open kitchen door the 
tender of money by Stacy in payment for his meal, 
had seen her mother snatch it eagerly and thrust it 
into her apron pocket, and her less sordid soul re- 
volted at once. 



:"/r" i 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



IS 



" Mother," she said, entering the kitchen, her face 
aflame, as soon as Stacy was well away, " you had 
no right to take a dollar frrni th^'t man for his 
dinner and I am ashamed for you. He must think 
us very mean and grasping." 

" I'll take what's given me," returned her mother 
sharply, " 'n' I dunno's it's any o' your business, 
either." 

" It's mine as much as yours," answered Hazel 
with rising wrath, "and he will have good reason 
to think us mean, I say." 

" Wal, say it all you want to," snarled Martha, 
turning away, " 'n' if ye don't like my way o' doin' 
things ye ain't 'bleeged to stay here, I s'pose ye 
know." 

And poor Hazel, to whom the coming of this 
woman to replace her own mother nine years be- 
fore had been gall and bitterness, took herself away 
for the girlish consolation of tears. 

Later, when he came for his two milk pails, she 
followed her father to where the cows awaited his 
attention. 

" Father," she said, coming to the point at once, 
with eyes still red, " I can't stand mother's ways 
any longer. Please, may I go away and teach 
school in Barre when September comes ? There is 
a girl, Jennie Oaks — you know her — she was in 



11 



X*e*» 



i6 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



school with me there, and she has promised to get 
me a place. May I go, father? " 

" Oh, don't ye mind Martha, little girl," he an- 
swered tenderly. " She's fretty, 'n' her ways ain't 
our ways. Kinder bossy, I know, but she means 
well, I cal'Iate. What's up now, girlie?" And he 
smiled at Hazel in his usual benign way. 

And Hazel, with more spirit than he, yet as ten- 
der-hearted, told him all that had happened. 

" Wal, wal, don't ye mind, girlie, don't ye mind," 
he assured her soothingly. " We must put up with 
Martha's ways, you 'n' L But I can't spare ye, no- 
how. I — I meant well bringin' Martha here," he 
added after a pause, '" better'n it's turned out, 
mebbe, but I can't let ye go. I'd gin the house up 
to her fust, 'n' go with ye — som'ers. 

"Thar's 'nother thing I might ez well tell ye. 
Hazel," he continued more tenderly, " 'n' mebbe 
it'll sorter rekonsile ye to matters ez they be. I've 
fixed my will so you'll git everything I kin give ye 
'cordin' to law when I go, 'n' that mine stock's in 
your name. When I'm through, you'll come perty 
near bein' able to order her to git out if ye feel 
like it. 'N'— wal, I hope ye will, girlie. Ef 
'twa'n't fer the speech o' people, I'd do it myself 
now." Then, and as if this assurance — never be- 
fore admitted by him — must be oil upon the 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 17 

troubled waters of their home life, he turned away. 

And poor motherless Hazel, more heartbroken 
than ever, walked slowly up the hill, biting her lips 
to keep back the tears. Here she sat down beneath 
her old pine tree to watch the sunset with wet eyes. 

To her, just then, life seemed like that. 



CHAPTER II 

FOREWARNED now of what to expect from 
Sam Gates, the joke-loving landlord of the 
Oakdale House, Stacy halted outside " The 
Corners," as that villag.,- was called, to do what all 
trout fishermen ever will do — put the big ones 
on top in his basket. To his surprise, also, he 
found more in it than he supposed — in fact, four- 
teen, and three of them would weigh a pound each 
He recalled catching one extra big one early that 
day, but here were three, and a total of more than 
he supposed he had caught, including the six small 
ones cooked for his dinner! It was a satisfying 
exhibit most certainly, if unaccountable, and the 
only solution, which soon came to S*acy, was that 
Uncle Asa must have added some to his catch. 
But how and when? 

"Bless his old heart," muttered Stacy, now 
spreading handfuls of fresh green grass between 
each layer of fish as he repacked them, big ones on 
top ; '• but he is all wool and a yard wide ! " Then, 
and thus equipped to turn the tables on Sam he 
strode onward, light-hearted. As he expected' lie 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 19 

found that genial Boniface with a retinue of four 
of the village "Old Guard" all tilted back in 
chairs on tlie hotel piazza, and evidently awaiting 
him as he drew near. On the face of each was an 
expectant grin. 

" VVal," drawled Sam as he came up, " what Inck 
did ye hev? Ketch a basketful? " 

" I did," returned Stacy proudly, " and the best 
day's sport I ever had I That Bear Swamp brook is 
a dandy ! Why, I had my basket plumb full before 
I got half way through I A little brushy, of course, 
but I don't mind that when trout are plenty. I've 
had the day of my life and a nice mess cooked for 
my dinner at a farmhouse," he added, unslinging 
his basket and dropping it in front of the now 
dunifounded group. 

Not a word did one of them utter as Sam spread 
the handsome trout side by side on the piazza while 
Stacy watched him smilingly, and enjoyed his dis- 
comfiture. 

" You said Bear Hole Brook was the best one 
for trout anywhere about here, Sam," he now 
drawled in imitation of that worthy, " and it is. I 
never saw its equal for big ones. How do ye like 
'em, Sam?" 

Then Sam Gates, the inveterate joker who had 
sent many a city sportsman into this same Mohawk- 



20 THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

briared morass to laugh at Iiim afterwards, who 
had also that afternoon sent for his four cronies 
to come and enjoy this one's detailed experience 
now stared first at the array of big trout, then 
glanced furtively at Stacy's smiling face and then 
at the grinning ones of the Old Guard and sank 
back mto his chair crestfallen. 
_^ " Wal. by hokey, it beats n-c." he gasped. 
•Knocks me dar inter the middle o' last week! 
But you're the fust man who ever cum out o' B'ar 
Hole with a string like that, you be!" And he 
looked helplessly around at his cronies. 

And then, as if by one accord, they burst into 
simultaneous laughter ! 

" Guess it's on yew, Sam," drawled Bascom, the 
leader of the four, " 'n' 'bout time to set >m up 
'fore we go hum to supper, ain't it, Sam? " 

And Sam Gates, conscious that the tables had 
been turned on him handsomely, ejaculated, " 'Tis 
I guess; come on," and led the way into his bar- 
room. 

It was also many moons ere he heard the last 
of his futile and loudly proclaimed joke on this 
"city feller," and its outcome. 

That evening, also, when he and Stacy were 
alone on the piazza enjoying an after-supper cigar 
and cool air, there came from him, as might be ex- 



THE CASTL!- BUILDERS 2, 

pected. a revelation anent Uncle Asa Webster and 
his family history, now especially interesting to 
Stacy. 

" Yaas, Uncle Asa's a nice man." he cj.iculated 
m response to Stacy's description of how he had 
been cared for and fed; "one o' the salt of the 
airth. 'n' friend o' everybody. His gal. Hazel, too 
>s sweeter'n peaches 'n' cream, though .she holds her- 
^If kmder 'bove the Oakdale boys, howsomever. 
She teaches school over west side to kinder help 
out. 'n' sings in meetin', too. She don't hit it off 
w.th her stepmother, though, wuth a cuss. Alius 
naggm' one anuther. they say. 'n' nobody's s'prised 
fer this un-she was the Widder Raker 'fore she 
ketched Uncle Asa - alius was a Tartar. She's a 
schemer, too, this Martha Eaker as w,is Got Jake 
to deed over his place to her, take out some in- 
surance fust go-off. 'n- then druv him to drink with 
her tantrums, 'n' the Jims finally, so he hung him- 
self m the barn. She had two boys, wuthless 
scamps, too. Uncle Asa says the only thing they'll 
ac willingly is git 'round to meals on time He's 
a mce man, ez I said, but he got roped in by the 
vvidder. 

" He got took in wuss'n that, too, 'n' 'bout the 
same time." added Sam after pausing to relight his 
cigar, " 'n' by a feller named Curtis North. Slick 



22 THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

feller, too, who come up here fishin', '„• sold him 
fo..r thcsand dollars wuth o' minin' stock not 
wuth a cuss. Skun Uncle Asa out o' all his savin's 
with his palaver. This feller, North, was the 
smartest talker I ever saw. Said he war a banker 
also, n- looked the part with his white side- 
whiskers 'n' jovial red face, city togs. '„• watch fob 
b.g ez a hen's egg. He stayed 'round here two 
weeks to do the trick. Got Uncle Asa to take him 
hshm, went to prayer meetin' 'n' talked 'bout how 
he loved the Lord 'n' tried to do His biddin', 'n' all 
that rot. He ketched me, too, by hokey," Sam ad- 
mitted after another pause. " Ketched me fer five 
hundred o' his cussed stock in the Rawhide Gold 
Mining and Reduction Company ez the sartificate 
has printed on it in big gold letters. Likewise ten 
per cent, cumulative dividends payable in gold, 
i hey must a' ben cumulatin' ever sence, fer I hain't 
seen any. I've got that sartificate framed jist to 
prove to myself how many kinds o' damn fool a 
man kin be 'n' live." 

"Did you try Bear Hole Swamp on this 
''harper?" mterrupted Stacy, laughing. "And if 
so, how did he take it ? " 

" I did, o' course," responded Sam with a droll 
look, but It didn't ketch him; he was too slick. 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 23 

Jist turned tail ':, -on. back. Said he didn't feel 
niuch hke fish „ that day. 'd give up 'nother hun- 
dred, though, iis to drop ,im plumb in the middle 
o that tangle , ... ;.. i„ck, howsomever." 

"Where was this mine swindle located'" 
queried Stacy, recalling the scores of them he had 
heard about. 

"Why, in Rawhide. Nevada, it sez in a little 
book this sliarper give out 'round here, 'n' thar war 
a pictur o' the town in it, too, with lots o' big build- 
ms, two meetin' houses, 'n' shops with tall chim- 
neys n' smoke comin' out on 'em. Nice pictur, 
looked hke everybody thar wuz gittin' rich hand 
over fist. One big buildin' had ' Ba.Jc ' over its 
door n' fh,s sharper said he was president on't. 
Oh, he did the trick up good 'n' slick! 

"The curis part," he added reflectively, after 
another pause, "is that Uncle Asa won't believe 
y.t he hez ben swindled. Thinks that mine'U pan 
out all right some day 'n' make Hazel rich. He had 
the shares made out in her name, too. Why he's 
the kind o' man as hears larks singin' all day in 
the sky n he'd squeeze sunshine out o' cucumbers 
he would." 

Much more of the current gossip regarding 
Uncle Asa, his termagant wife, their home life, and 



o-f-wse i«x.:'.«t'iiA. 



•w«^Ki-<-mf-^?f^ 



24 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



especially Hazel and the many fellows who had 
sought to be her "beau" and failed, was now 
added by this talkative Boniface. Only two por- 
tions of it interested Stacy even casually : Hazel's 
evident superiority to her environment, her out-of- 
placeness here, and that about the comical side- 
whiskered sharper who was able to make a fool of 
a keen-witted Yankee landlord. That seemed very 
funny to Stacy. And for that reason this chap's 
distinctive face, white whiskers, watch fob and all 
— a type quite familiar to Stacy — pursued him 
even to his room and for a half-hour while he 
smoked, watched the now moonlit landscape, and 
vainly tried to locate a man he was positive of 
having seen, sometime — somewhere. Up and 
down the land and back and forth across the con- 
tinent he traveled in thought and ever on the look- 
out for this exuberant yet elusive face, that like a 
will-o'-the-wisp, one among thousands, persisted in 
evading him. At last he came upon it in a little 
smoke-dimmed, lamp-lit back room of a mining 
camp saloon, and one of seven men gathered 
around a table playing poker. He recalled the 
group now distinctly, all red-shirted, with hats on 
and smoking, and all but this side-whiskered one 
belted with ominous " guns " with stocks protrud- 
ing from holsters. The one most pertinent inci- 






THE CASTLE BUILDERS 25 

dent of this ordinary camp gambling scene was 
that Stacy noticed and noted how one of the belted 
poker players — a slim, sinister-eyed Mexican — 
and the white-whiskered one, were evidently pals 
and, sitting side by side, now and then passed one 
another cards. It wasn't Stacy's funeral, as he 
then thought — it might have been had he made 
known the facts — but he was too camp-wise to 
mix into what was not his business, so merely 
watched the cut-throat game curiously for an hour 
and then left the den. He now recalled seeing 
these two together the next day, and only the sharp 
contrast of their personal appearance — he of the 
whiskers, well-clad, rotund, and clean ; the Greaser, 
filthy and wearing leggins, a red tie, much soiled 
red shirt, a nbrero — fixed them in his mind, 

and as a pai. , unhanged rascals. 

That one had escaped well-merited justice and 
after hatching a swindling scheme had come to 
this peaceful hamlet to " do " these honest folk was 
evident. That good and trustful Uncle Asa would 
never receive one penny of his investment was also 
as self-evident, and the only return was the comical 
one expressed by Sam Gates of, " how many kinds 
of a damn fool a man could be and live." 

One more corroborative recollection also came to 
Stacy, which was that this mining camp — a group 



26 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



of a dozen framed buildings and a Inmdred stone 
sod. and brush-thatched liovels-was called Raw- 
hide. 

Another and much pleasanter feature of his one 
Ms sojourn here now superseded him of the 
whiskers, and somehow, just now, in the utter si- 
lence of his room and looking out upon the moonlit 
mountam, Stacy's thoughts recurred to Hazel once 
more. Her sweet face first seen bent over an anto- 
harp, her two dainty feet pointing upwards, and 
even the metallic tinkle of " Don't You Hea- D--m 
Bells A-Rmging?" now came back to him. Then 
he saw her as the gracious little hostess, serving 
h.m a meal as rare as the day itself; neither shy 
nor forward, just charmingly polite, thoughtful, 
and d,gn,fied, with the poise that only contact with 
refined and cultured people could give. A little 
lady, m fact, sweet, piquant, and charming 

" Where did she get it all? " Stacy thought, now 
preparu,g for slumber. •' Certamly not in this tank 
town or that old rookery. Either she's been away 
and learned fast, or it's a case of to the manner 
born. I d like to see more of her, anyhow " 

T.ntle did he now realize how this simple country 
S.rl, with eyes like a peep .nvo a well, was destined 
to upset all his placid cynicism and serene satisfac- 
tion with himself, and lead him a veritable devil's 
dance of despair. 



"W 



CHAPTER III 

TAL, did ye kinder turn the tables on 
Sam ? " queried Uncle Asa the next 
morning, after Stacy's arrival at his 
ancient abode, and the mutual greeting. 

" I did," the younger one responded, " thanks to 
you, sir, for two things; the tip, and the trout you 
added to my catch." 

" Wal, I'm glad on't," returned Uncle Asa, smil- 
ing benignly. " I owe Sam more'n I kin ever pay 
back in jokes, ye see. Ez fer the trout, I yanked 
a few outen a pen I keep a lot in, in the medder, 
jist to top off your string 'n' open Sam's eyes. 
I've got a couple o' boys — Martha's "— he ex- 
plained, glancing at the house, " who like fishin' bet- 
ter'n work, 'n' ter keep peace, 'n' th';m out o' mis- 
chief i gin 'em ten cents apiece fer all the live trout 
they fetch m» We'll take a look at 'em, 'n' then 
start I've got the bait dug 'n' boss hitched up." 
And this genial optimist led the way to the trout 
pen. It was :i cunningly devised one, a trench four 
rods long and perhaps five feet wide and two feet 
27 



28 THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

deep, dug near the brook Stacy had followed 
through the swamp, and full to the brim from a 
screened inlet from that. Its bottom was of white 
sand and gravel, one end boarded over for cover, 
and in this pen were certainly a hundred handsome 
trout. 

" I like to feed 'cm, 'n' sit 'n' watch 'em now 'n' 
then," Uncle Asa admitted. "It's kinder like 
company; 'n' so does Hazel. Trout alius seem to 
mc like they had minds o' their own," he added, 
looking fondly at them. " 'n' could figger out we was 
mortal enemies to 'em. Yer can't fool a trout no- 
how. Yer can't ketch him nappin', either. If he 
sees ye fust, ye don't see him in a brook. I guess 
we'd best be startin'," he continued, squinting at the 
rising sun. " We'd orter started two hours ago in 
the cool o' the mornin'." 

Stacy glanced searchingly all around the house, 
into the garden, and up towards the big pine, while 
Uncle Asa was backing the horse and ancient car- 
ryall out from the shed, but saw nothing of Hazel. 
And then they drove away. To Stacy, also, it 
seemed curious that this old man should so willingly 
leave his work for an entire day to take him fishing, 
without an hour's acquaintance, as he had. Yet it 
had so come about. He also though; of "his 
whiskers," as he already began to call this Curtis 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 29 

North in his mind, and wondered if he, too, had 
been so treated on sight. He also longed to ask 
Uncle Asa about him, but dared not as yet. In- 
stead, and to allay all suspicion of his own real er- 
rand here, he gave an explicit statement of how 
busy a man he was in the city, how he had been 
unable to find time for even a day's vacation for 
years until now, and that Oakdale (heard of 
through a friend) had seemed an ideal spot to pass 
a week in. 

" It is a perty quiet town," Uncle Asa admitted 
at this conclusion; "nobody gits rich here, 'n' no- 
body gits poor. We jist raise 'nuff ter eat, buy 
a few clothes 'n' pay the parson fer savin' our 
souls, 'n' that's 'bout all we need, anyhow. I like 
livin' here," he added retrospectively, " 'n' I've ben 
away jist 'nufif ter knew how comfortin' 'tis. I've 
ben to Barre a few times, ben ter your city once, 
'n' I wouldn't live in either place if I wuz paid fer't.' 
Too much doin', 'n' too much noise. Then agin, 
salt water's only four mile away down the crick.' 
I've got a boat, 'n' 'bout twice a week or so I go 
down it 'n' ketch some clams or fetch home some 
lobsters fer a change. I alius take Hazel 'long 
when school ain't keepin'," he admitted tenderly. 
" She Hkes the fun, 'n' smell o' salt air same ez I 
do. Thar's whar she teaches," he asserted proudly, 



30 THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

and pointing to the brown roadside schoolhouse 
they were nearing. "It's jist a mile 'n' a half 
walk, 'n' a rule to The Corners whar she goes ter 
meetin' 'n' sings Sundays." 

It was self-evident that this Hazel was about all 
her father lived for. 

" This is Rocky Glen brook," he declared, now 
crossing one a mile up the narrow valley above the 
village. " It splits jist ahead, 'n' the main stream 
comes down out o' a gorge ter the left o' the stage 
road we're on. I'm goin' ter take ye 'round ter 
the head 'o that 'n' let ye tish down. Then I'll 
come back to the forks 'n' fish 'totl.er brook while 
I wait. Arter that, 'n' if ye hain't ketched nuff by 
then, we'll go up the stage road 'n' strike the small 
brook. You'll find Rocky Glen perty good Sshin' 
though." 

And so it proved, for once on it Stacy found 
liimself at the upper end of a wide canyon in the 
mountains west of Oakdale, with a sizable brook 
and just pitch enough to make pools and cascades 
adown its laughing course. Trout were fairly 
plenty in these, no brush to interfere, and by noon 
when he reached the lower end of this vale his 
basket was full of speckled beauties. 

And now came another surprise, for here at the 






THE CASTLE BUILDERS 31 

foot of this oval valley, rather than canyon, its 
enclosing hills narrowed to a gateway not fifty rods 
from the stage road. 

He had cnnip to Oakdale to find a site for a 
dam and space for water storage upon some suit- 
able stream where land was of little value — a rare 
combination in any settled country — and here was 
an ideal location facing a fertile valley within five 
miles of tide water! 
It seemed prophetic! 

And now, from where he had climbed part way 
up one of these abutting hills, he could overlook 
the scattered farmhouses of Oakdale, The Corners 
or nucleus of dwellings, stores, and two churches 
that composed it, and away to the bordering line 
of ocean. Then, and given to air-castle building as 
he always was, he saw a group of factories just 
below this wato-- gap, beyond and in place of The 
Corners a populous city, and further on where the 
blue rim of old ocean gleamed in the sunlight, an 
array of the masts of vessels at anchor in a harbor. 
He did not as yet know if one were there at the 
outlet of the stream; he did know that the mighty 
arm of Commerce would dig and construct one if 
needed. And so for a half-hour, this man of many 
plans and Ijacked by money power sat building his 



f1| 



32 THE CASTLI- BUILDERS 

air castle of a new city .„ arise from the niagic 

Po«cr of a stren,,, ten ro,ls below hin,, whose un- 

ud energy had l.en running to waste since the 
(lawn of creation ! 

"Who owns the land alongside the brook I've 

r; of "r "'"' "°"'^''="^""^ °^ Uncle Asa 
thca",. '";'"' "'^'='"''^°-P-^'l™'- on 

uZ T u ''°"' "^ ™"« 'he best of the 
tittiber has been cut away." 

Sn'm^r ': "'.' '°"" ""' ^' ^'^'"^ -^"^'n belongs to 
Sam Gates, responded Uncle Asa, " 'n' the upoer 
- .o the Widder Lewis, Aunt Huldah, leTi; 

San,'/ ■" "f! ' '""'"^ ^'■""■'h °' -^''-^^'nut o. 
barn s pr. „ he had 'em cut 'n' sold ter the rail- 
road fer ties 'bout six years ago." 

"The land isn't worth much now, I take it'" 
quened Stacy cautiotisly once more 

"No, hardly wuth taxin'." answered Uncle Asa 

I beheve U's put in fer a dollar an acre bv Squire 
Phumey He's fust seleckman, tax 'sesson 'n' the 
whole thmg here, ye know." 

And .hen came the secondary feature of the en- 
joyment of a day's outing, the midday lunch 

I ve brung along a little snack," asserted Uncle 
Asa aft H,s exchange and glancing up at the 
sun. ^ I g„ess it's 'bout time to injie it." 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



33 

And he led the way to whore he had hitched his 
sedate nag hy the roadside. 

" 'Tain't nnich, I don't s'pose," he added apolo- 
getically, an,l drawing a large wooden box from 
beneath the carryall seat. " I told Hazel to put 
up the best she could, howsomever." Then he 
seated himself on a shaded bit of greensward and 
opened the box. 

And now Stacy was impressed by the house- 
wifely abilities of Miss Hazel, for the first iten, 
taken out was a small strawberry shortcake, next 
came a plate of cold boiled ham wrapped in a nap- 
km, then slices of buttered bread, boiled eggs 
doughnuts, cheese, and some pickles wrapped in an- 
other napkin. 

Stacy in his hustling, bustling business and pros- 
ting hfe and wanderings had eaten all kinds of 
meals, from the best a first-class hotel could furnish 
to a slice of jerked venison washed do.-n with 
lukewarm water from a canteen on the plains, but 
never one that so woke the zest of good appetite 
as this. And best of all, the box it came from ex- 
baled the mingled odor of summer savorv and 
sage, recalling his early boyhood and mother's 
pantry. 

He had occasion to recall it many times after- 
wards. 



n I' 



34 THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

"You told me o„ ,I,e w.-.y up here," asserted 
Uncle Asa after the " s.,ack " had been duly dis- 
posed of and Stacy had lit his cigar, "that youd 
ben west a few times kimler lookin' up mines fer 
your firm. Did ye ever in your join's round hear 
o the Rawhide Gold Minin' Cotupany in Nevada 
some rs ? 

"No. I never did," answered Stacy, startled at 
the ^abruptness of the question. "Why do you 

" Wai. nothin' special, only I didn't know but 
ye rrnght 'a' heerd on't if ye wu. i,, xNevada," and 
Uncle Asa looked at Stacy with his kindly, trustful 
eyes, then away, and back at Stacy a^ain 

" I dunno but I may ez well tell ye, Mr. Whipple - 
l.e contmued after this pause. "Ye seem kinder 
square n' honest, '„- I kinder took to ye on sight 
e^ .t war." Then and in his quaint drawl and 
dmlect he told the story in full that Stacy had al- 
ready heard outlined, with many auditions. First 
how this Curtis North had come to his home of- 
fering ample pay to be taken out fishing, how he 
had repeated this method of getting acquainted two 
or three t.n,es with many assertions of his own 
honesty, wealth, prosperity, and how rich a mine 
he m reahty owned; and finally, how he (Uncle 
Asa) had been lured to inves* all his savings in 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 35 

stock of .his „,ine. It uas an old s.orv ,0 Stacy 
f '■■"' !'^''-'^<J '"""y ^in'i'ar experiences, and yet 

sympathy and interest as no other one ever had 
^ An,l yet he dare not now disillusionize Uncle 

"I '"egin to worry consid'ble 'bout it." the old 
."an adnmted after the tale wa, told. " I p ,„ 
every dollar I'd saved „p for Hazel, she's ^^ J 

lusto„,yheart.'n'thar'sthefixr„,i„. .rb- 
that „me I ham't heerd a word from it. I wuz in 
hopes you. ^oin' round Nevada ez ye hev mi^ V 
nin onto this mine out thar." ^ 

"No,'; answered Stacy, now feeling th.-,t he 

- g- a hundred dollars to see this C.t 
North danghng from a rope's end; "I can't Jiv 

- Iw,sh could. I can. however, obtain all 

t"orrr:rte:r'^r'''"^'^'---p°- 

by whom T. T r """^ "P''tali==ed for, and 
Ami, ^ '''" '"■■'■'>• ^'" ^^''e" I return to 

Albion and write you full particulars " A.Tl 

a..ad%bt came to the fac'; of u:"e Asa."'' '''■■' 

-Jn'n;;ir°°^ ''-''" •'-^''''"-^■"w 

"Ivva'n'ttheonlydumfool.ifdumfoollwar." 



36 THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

he added, smiling again, " for Sam Gates put in 
five hundred dollars, too, 'n' he's counted the sharp- 
est man in town. Funny, too, fer that was the very 
money he got fer his chestnut saplings cut from 
longs,de the brook you've ben fishin' on You 
mustn't tell him, either," he continued after a pause 
He thmks, -n' everybody thinks, I'm sure, it'll all 

pan out right in time. Hazel thinks I believe so, too 
n I wouldn't hev her know different fer the world. 

" ud break her heart ter know I wuz worryin' at 

my time o' life." 

"Oh, well, it may turn out right after all," re- 
turned Stacy assuringly. "Anyhow, it won't do 
any good to worry. Worry will kill a cat, they say 
Uncle Asa, and my theory is that the only thing 
worth worrying about is our own health. As for 
this mme mvestment, try to forget it. I would if 
1 were you." 

"I like your idee o' grit," answered Uncle Asa 
more buoyantly, "but I kin see ye hain't no idee 
I n^ ever g,t a cent back outen that mine, now hev 

"I won't admit that, not yet," asserted Stacy 
wuh well-assumed confidence. "I shall probably 
go to Nevada this fall on business for my firm, and 
I II look that m.ne up, I promise you, and report the 
facts to you. 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS ^y 

Then Uncle Asa sprang to his feet and extended 
his hand with eagerness. " Say, Mr. Whipple," he 
asserted after the mutual clasp, "youVe lifted a 
b.g load off'n my heart, 1 tell ye. Now I want you 
to promise to make yourself to hum at my house 
wh.Ie you re stayin' here. Come over any time 
you feel hke it, '„' any time you want ter go fishin'. 
J.st say the word '„' I'll take ye. Mebbe, too, ye'd 
hke ter go down the creek with me 'n' Ha^eI arter 
clams We cud take 'long a couple o' her gal 
fronds, too-the boat's big 'nuff-'n' hev a ciL 
bo.I than You bein' a young man 'ud enjoy that 
sartin." ■' ■' ' 

of the Oakdale House, after Stacy had insisted he 
take home two-thirds of the trout so that his 
family could have an ample meal, Stacy's intended 
sojourn here promised to be a charming one to him. 

And that evenmg also brought another pleasant 
assurance from Landlord Sam. 

"You've jist plumped right down inter good 

liT tV."""' '""•" ''^ ^=-^^^d after slcy 
had described his day's experience, luck, lunch, and 

h art 'tho„r"' 'T'"" '"' "'''' *° Uncle Asa's 
heart thout any effort, 'n' he's a winner fer cnter- 
tamin' folks he likes. Then thar's Hazel, bright ez 
a button n perty ez a pink, 'thout any beau ! Why. 



38 THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

young man, you've got a picnic long's you stay 
here! I wish I was your agel What a heap o' 
fun I'd hev! " 
It looked that way to Stacy. 



CHAPTER IV 

THE next morning, returning from the hill 
back of Uncle Asa's - visited for further 
inspection of Bear Hole swamp valley for 
possible reservoir use -Stacy espied the polite 
hostess whose culinary abilities had been so con- 
soling. She was below him in a pasture, partially 
squatted on the ground, dressed in the same faded 
cahco as when first seen by him, also calico sun- 
bonnet, and busy picking strawberries. 

And just then, conscious that he was unseen by 
her, Stacy halted to consider whether he should 
advance, accost her, and enjoy a chat, or keep on 
his way back to the hotel. 
And this for reasons that must be explained 
To begin, he was. as stated, a confirmed cynir. 
and while not a woman hater, his one hectic love 
experience had convinced him that love is a most 
charming and delightful illusion in the beginning 
but a bitter and painful one in the end. Also, that 
■ts natural sequence is marriage, and he was 
firmly and fully determined that he should never 
let any of the fair sex lure him to that outcome. 
39 



40 THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

He was also conscious of a more than passing in- 
terest already in this girl. Her sweet and piquant 
face and dainty form, and more especially her dig- 
nity and refinement, coupled with a certain sweet 
sunphcty, had already been noticed and noted by 
him. He had also been informed that she had 
no recognized admirer, and held herself above the 
country swains of Oakdale, and was unhappy i„ 
her home relations with a stepmother. More than 
that, he had been accorded the open sesame to that 
home by her father,- in fact, urged to accept it,- 
and the gateway to an idyllic love romance thus 
opened wide for him to enter. 
But should he? 

It is said that the current of Chance sways and 
swmgs and impels us hither and yon as it wills, and 
he strongest are as thistle-down in its power 
Whether that be true or not, Chance determined 
Stacy s action just then, for while he yet waited un- 
decded, the girl arose, looked up and saw him 
watchmg her. There was but one courteous course 
kft h,m now -to advance and greet her who had 
been his hostess as a gentleman should, and he did 
so. 

"Good morning. Miss Webster," he said, nearing 
her and raising his hat. " I saw you from up back 
here and waited for you to look up so you wouldn't 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 4, 

think I meant to pounce upon you again. Are you 
making ready for another as delicious a shortcake 
as^I shared with your father yesterday?" 

" I am," she answered, smiling at the graceful 
comphment. " and if you go fishing with him again 
to-morrow, perhaps you will have some of it " 

"Or. better still, if I am invited to your house 
for supper to-night I'll get it then," he answered. 

"You most certainly will — if invited," she re- 
turned with just a faint touch of irony. 
^'1 But shall I get it? " he questioned. 
" Yes, and two pieces if you are there." 
" I mean the invitation," he explained. 
"Why, yes, if you see father before supper 
titne, she responded naively. " He has taken quite 
a hking to you already." 

" I'm glad," he answered more soberly " for I 
think your father is a very nice man, and so sun- 
sh.ny. The landlord of your hotel says he hears 
larks smging in the sky all day." 

"He isn't as much so as he once was," she re- 
plied soberly; "he -he is older, you know." 

No wonder," thought Stacy, "with that Tartar 
wife and money sunk in a mine swindle." Then 
aloud, "I admire a man who can retain cheerful- 
tiess and hear even now and then a lark through 
old age. Few of us can ever hope for tliat But 



43 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



how about the invitation to snpper? Please «ay I 

.ZuZ'T ''°" "' '°' °"'=' y°" «"-' have it. I 
he h , '"''"""""' '■"'■""^'y- "='"d you are 

hereby and now properly invited to supper at my 
home. Maple Dell, this evening, six-thiny sharpT" 
And so Its Maple Dell you call it? Well 
many thanks. Til be there on time. Evening dTes 
or J ust ordinary ? " ^ ^ 

"Oh evening, by all means." she returned smil- 

ZlTmf'"^""'''=™^"'°°''^ ---•'-" 
gentleman m proper attire." 

Then, and as if she had granled him all the en- 
couragen,ent he deserved, she turned to her berry- 

eldlT'" ^"' ''-''• '"°- "'^ -- ■•-cr- 
ested .n th,s rusfc maid with the ease and speech 

of a c,ty bred belle, now plumped down on his 
knees beside her to assist. 

For a most charming half-hour he kept at it 
c ttmg meanwhile, eating a few berries, followi ^ 
her about, and now and then peeping slyly at hef 
P.quant face smiling out of the depths of that coa 
scoop bonnet. Once she caught him at it, flushed 
s^'ghtly a d after that he obtained no mo e peeps 
A wee httle chill, also, began to tinge the tone of 
her vo,ce from that moment on. for Stacy was 
blessed (or .mpeded) by rather compelling black 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 43 

eyes that, as someone described such, " bored into 
you like gimlets." His speech was always softly 
modulated, unless in anger, and the one baleful 
factor in his make-up was his cynicism, that per- 
sisted in adding a lurking scorn to his glances. He 
was keen, also, in reading moods, and it soon 
dawned on him that this fair maid either felt afraid 
of him, distrusted him, or that he had offended her 
by word or glance. She had met his first advances 
and appeal for an invitation to supper in a pretty, 
half-coquettish way, and then, presto, had, as he 
would put it, " frozen up." 

"I hope you didn't feel that I was intruding 
when I coaxed you for an invitation to supper. Miss 
Webster," he said, rising v.-hen the pail was full. 
" I didn't mean to, certainly, and my excuse is a 
double one,— I wanted to get better acquainted 
with you, and another taste of your shortcake. It 
is even better than my mother used to make." 

" That suggests country origin," she responded, 
ignoring his well-meant compliment, and rising; " I 
thought you were a city-bred man." 

" I am and I am not. I was born in the country, 
but left it at sixteen, and since then, I must admit, 
I've been subject to the unholy influences of the 
city. You don't like city men, I infer, by your 
tone ?" 



( 



44 THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

"I didn't mean you should infer anything," she 
answered coolly, and turning her expLive ev 
ul upon h,n, "I naturally distrust city n,en, b" 
I do not speak in riddles." 

JyZT'rT ^'"'' ""' '^"P'^d '° ^^k 'he 
oetter senst prevailed. 

for to the best of my observation, few are worth 
even a man's confidence. n,uch less a woman's." 

laughmg hghtly, and turning to go 

" I hope we may find other points of agreement 
a^^om^^^uetm.." he said, taking two Lps her 
r;favort"°"''"'°"^°"«°''"^^^-^- 

m"isitP"'"^"^^^°'"'^^^-- 'anyone. 

"Why, your auto-harp, this evening, after the 
shortcake, and the same tune I first thought wa 
gnos mus,c, the day I scared you so. It hVs bZ 
tmkhng m my ears ever since " 

she bowed and left h,m''''' ^""^"^ ^"rupt, 
And Stacy, conscious that he had made no prog- 



TvsT»-'(r>«^ 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 45 

ress whatever in the good graces of tliis cool and 
piquant maid, raised his hat deferentially, said 
•' Good-bye," in the same cool tone, and strode away 
in opposite direction. 

And recalling the various fair ones he had met 
so far, or more especially how acquaintance with 
them first began, it recurred to him that never one 
had so frozen him at the start. In a way, also, it 
was an abrupt change from her demeanor as host- 
ess, for then she was politely gracious, while now 
she was politely cool. Now, and as this compar- 
ative mood was on, his bete noire, the Spanish 
beauty, recurred, also, and how her subtle flatteries 
and delicately-veiled insinuations of love-interest 
first led him on. 

" Thank God, she isn't like her ! " he exclaimed 
aloud, at this juncture. "Rather ice or marble 
than that love trickster for me ! " 

He little realized just then that it is the maid of 
ice or marble nature that usually wakens the fiercest 
love in man. 

" There is something back of her chilliness," he 
continued musingly, and now more than ever 
pained by it. "When she served me that mid- 
afternoon meal, she was gracious sweetness person- 
ified, and quite charming; now, and after she has 
seen that her father accepts me as a good fellow, 



[j 



- !' 
I' 



46 THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

worth taking fishing- a snre sign that a man likes 
another -she suddenly freezes up and treats me 
1 I were a gentleman pickpocltetl And I never 
tned harder to be nice to a girl in r^y HfeJ j can't 
understand it ! " 

Then, and as is natural to a man who first begins 
to take notice of a maid, he began an analytical 
survey of tliis one. Her perfectly ladylike de- 
meanor and command of language, showing cul- 
ture and refinement; her poise and self-possession 
so unusual in such a rustic maid; her quick per- 
ception of what was proper to say and do toward 
h.m, a stranger, and minor features of her conduct 
M conspired to outline a most charming young lady. 
Her personal appearance came ne.xt in this survey 
Her dehcate features, flower-like face, red-ripe lips 
and more es,^cially her eyes -like deep wat/. ' 
each and all recurred to him, and details of her , o 
as well. He had noticed that she wore but .ne 
nng. a pearl solitaire, while the two dresses he had 
seen her in -a faded calico and wlutc pique - 
whde perfectly fitting, were severely plain and prob- 
ably homemade. All in all, it was evident that 
no money had ever been lavished on her Her 
home, also, ca-, in for review. Its old and worn- 
out condition ..as almost pitiful, and, while neat 
and well kept within, poverty was written all 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 47 

about, even to the homemade wiiiflow screens of 
mosquito nettinj;. 

He had been well, even cordially nccived there, 
in Good Samaritan manner. Uncle Asa — good 
old soul! — had, metaphorically speaking, opened 
his arms to him on sight, given him some nice trout 
to disconitit Sam, taken him fishing, confided his 
troubles to him, and treated him with unexpected 
consideration, in sharp contrast to Miss Hazel's 
frosty manner. And the reason for it was an al- 
most exasperating riddle I 

She was an unattended maid, according to all 
reports. Old enough and wise enough; also poor 
enough not to frown upon a fairly good-looking, 
intelligent, and prosperous young man. who had 
tried his best to be nice to her, he thought ! It ivas 
certainly past understanding! 

Other vexatious and sharp contrasts soon came 
his way. The dinner at the hotel that day (corned 
beef and cabbage — a combination that revolted his 
soul) was an abomination. The waiting maid, 
clad in greasy, almost filthy raiment, was chewing 
gum; the dishes, knives and forks smellei! of stale 
ham fat, and each part of that meal was in objec- 
tionable contrast 10 the dainty one served him at 
Uncle Asa's bv Hazel, with the perfume of lilac 
blossoms to add zest. 



48 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



Ifl 



Tht aft moon, a ho. seemed a long one ,o him. 

rllh k! T' ''"" '° ^"'^ '° '>- partner 
Colby, about the two available sites for .lam' pZ 

rx^soir '° '"'■" """• p™"^"" -' °^ >-d. 

row M *^ '" '"^"'■■«^"°" f the Rawhid 

Gold Mmmg Company. Then, as the landlorH 
was away in a field, .v..,,,. and none f h" o d 
Guar about. Stacy h.d „au«h, else to do ex« 
s.t on the deserted piazza, smoke, and watch "or 
passmg teams. And. to the best of his obser a.ion 
he nnly hv,„g creature he saw in two hou T; 
h-s. was one lone dog, tl,at trotted by. By this 
^.me he was almost lonesome enough to'brave pt 
pr ty by g„„,g ,n,o the kitchen and visiting with 
that slovenly serving-maid 

And not a half-mile away was the tnost charm- 

■ng of country lassies, bright enough to giv h^ 

a Roland for every Oliver, and a lilac-shadll norcT 

o do jt on, Also possessed of an auto- 4 and 

the abihty to play it like an Houri ! 

The strawberry-shortcake supper, to which he 
had almost begged an invitation, would probab^ 
be served about six o'clock. At exactly fouThe 
r t red o h,s room to get ready. As might be ex 
pected just now- when anxious to look his best- 
he cut h,mself shaving. ,rew vexed, found bm 
one new clean collar in his outfit, and got ood o„ 






THE CASTLE BUILDERS 49 

that, grew more angry, and at five, precisely, started 
for Uncle Asa's. 

And soon, entering the maplc-shadcd lane lead- 
ing to it, its cool ch^iiii and the romantic name,— 
Maple Dell,— given by Hazel to the coign or pocket 
where the house stood, recurred to him. It was 
like a sight of her, an impression she created, and 
suggestive of her. The dooryard, next entered, 
was another, for its graveled walk was bordered 
by rows of nasturtiums, just beginning to bloom, 
not a weed was visible in or around the beds of 
phlox, peonies, sweet Williams, and bachelor but- 
tons scattered over the yard, which, enclosed by 
a hedgerow of arbor vitae, was neatness personified. 
The house itself, half hidden by the two luxuriant 
clumps of lilac abutting upon the front corners, 
with big syringa bushes flanking its trellised porch, 
and moss-coated by age, was the one pitiful fe.iture 
and suggestive of an ancient tombstone. A pleas- 
anter picture next appeared in Hazel, now respond- 
ing to his knock on the open door, who, with a slight 
smile and " Good evening, sir," invited him to enter. 
" I must be excused," she added, after taking his 
hat and ushering him into the parlor. " I am cook 
and waiting maid both, you see, and father will 
soon he in to entertain you." 

" So it's fatlier whose guest I am," mused Stacy 



so THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

after she left the parlor, and then he looked curi- 
ously around th.s antique " keeping room." It was 

array of b,g red and yellow flowers and green 

";:%;?'" °: '""^ '■^■■^'^'°"'- °^^ «-'"" 

see" s If' T """^"^"^ °' Revolutionary 
scenes and family portraits on walls, all bespoke 
a past generation. The one half-modern tat 
was a square p.ano, on which lay the auto-harp he 
had seen Hazel playing, and a banjo. The two 
pertinent features suggestive of herself wer a 
book-filled what-not beside the piano and big 

S acy had scarcely completed this inventory when 
Uncle Asa, arrayed in ill-becoming "biled"Ih7rt 
and pepper-and-salt suit, came in. 

half'T ^'''^ '° ''' ^'' ^'- ^'^■PP'^-" he said, with 
hand-clasp as cordial as his tone; "'„' you mustn't 
fee yourself company jest 'cause I dre'sed u^ 
dont hke store clothes," he added confidentLly 
now seatmg himself on a chair as if afraid he wo d 
s hp off " but Martha said I must put 'em on ' ' 
oner keeps wimmin good-natered to do e they 

::-.^:o:^r;t:d;ir^--- 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



SI 



here Hazel chums with, 'n' one from Barre, who 
comes summers 'n' stays quite a spell. You see, 
Hazel was thar to school a couple o' years, 'n' 
stayed one winter, too, 'n' it's sorter spiled the 
young fellers here fer her. Kinder gin her notions 
'bout 'em." 

" That isn't surprising," responded Stacy, " and 
I presume a girl of her refinement may not enjoy 
farmers' sons, unless above the average." 

" Wal, that's the how on't, sartin," asserted 
Uncle Asa, r,s if all of Hazel's notions must be 
right ; " 'n' gal-s that's kinder got teched by city ways 
ain't goin' ter put up wi fellers that ain't p'tic'lar 
how they look, 'n' come to see a gal with cowhides 
on. 'Tain't nat'ral. 

" We got a little trip fixed up fer to-morrow," 
he continued, after a pause; " the one I spoke about 
to go down tlie crick with the tide, dig some clams, 
'n' hev a boil. I kin pull my pots, too — hain't 
done it I'er three da>o. 'n' Hazel 'n' them two chums 
o' hers is goin', too. I'd like ye to jine us." 

" I shall be most happy to do so," returned Stacy, 
wondering if his going was suggested by Uncle Asa 
first or by Hazel, yet glad of the chance. "I 
imagine such an outing might be great fun. What 
time shall you .start ? " 

"Oh, 'bout nine, when the ebb tide makes: ye 



S2 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



I 



see, it's four miles down the crick, 'n' we alius go 
'n' come with the tide. We'll take along a few 
fixin's 'n' things to cook with," he explained, " 'n' 
make a day on't. I'm sorry this friend o' Hazel's 
from Barre ain't here ter go," he added, after a 
pause, " fer she's chock full o' fun, while these 
two other gals is kinder bashful, 'n' mebbe'll be a 
little afeard o' you." Then Martha appeared, 
garbed in shiny black silk with jet trimmings, Stacy 
was duly introduced, she said, " Our tea is ready, 
sir," in ceremonious manner, and led the way into 
their living-room, where Hazel awaited them. 

Tea-table conversation with a stranger is almost 
invariably forced, stilted, and painful. On this oc- 
casion, and evidently a state affair in Martha's 
mind, her attempts at it were as graceful as a cow 
trying to waltz, for, evidently imbued with the 
citified importance of Stacy, or the magic of the 
dollar he had tendered her for a dinner, it appeared 
to him that her sole wish was to flatter him nauseat- 
ingly. And she succeeded to that extent in short 
order. In vain he evaded and disclaimed her at- 
tempts, and when he, as was obligatory, praised the 
shortcake, with rich cream poured over it, he felt 
sure that she would answer. " If 'twas all cream, 
it wouldn't be any too good for you. sir." 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 53 

But he was spared that cHmax of absurd flattery, 
for Uncle Asa got ahead of her. 

"Shortcake's good vittles," he mumbled, his 
mouth full of it, " 'n' nothin' better, 'speshly if ye 
put plenty o' cream on't. This wuz Hazel's, 'n' all 
right. She took arter her mother in knowin' how 
to make 'em. 'N' do ye know, Mr. Whipple," he 
added, as if to crush Martha, "I alius cal'late 
knowin' how to cook is sorter inherited. Now, 
thar wuz Hazel's mother; she made shortcake jist 
like this, no better, though, 'n' 'twas eatin' one on 
'em fust set me to thinkin' I wanted to git her 
kr a wife if I could. 'N' I did. I miss her," he 
continued, after a pause and sigh. " Miss her more 
'n' more ez the years go by, fer she wuz the best 
woman ever wuz fer me." 

That this tribute to Hazel's mother was not 
relishable to Martha was evident to Stacy. That 
it, also, pleased Hazel -vas evinced by a tender 
glance from her to her f i.ther, and then the subject 
was dropped. 

"Good livin' is 'bout all we git out o' Hfe," 
asserted Uncle Asa, a moment 'ater; "that is, 
'cordin' to my notion. Wimmin, as is nat'ral, think 
more o' fine clothes. They'd 'most starve, some 011 
'em, fer a new dress, 'n' when I go to meetin' 'n' 



I 



54 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



■■ 



see a string on 'em come struttin' in with new, 
shiny bunnits on, I alius think o' a flock o' peacocks 
on parade. 'N' the way they lock sideways ez they 
go up the aisle, makes me feel they are thinkin', 
' Look at me, now. Ain't my new bunnit too sweet 
fer anything ! ' " 

But table conversation is too pointless to quote 
extendedly, and this one was ro exception. Once 
started. Uncle Asa monopolized it, Stacy adroitly 
urging him on purposely to discomfit Martha and 
her absurd flatteries. And his droll and optimistic 
utterances were as new wine to Stacy, who began 
to admire him thoroughly. 

Hazel, however, who had undoubtedly supervised 
this most excellent meal, and was now content to 
see their guest well served, said but little. She 
was the real hostess, however; gracious, yet digni- 
fied, and the little she said, or its tone and her 
casual glances, convinced Stacy that what Landlord 
Sam had said was true, and that she almost hated 
her stepmother. 

Also, that he had so far failed to advance one 
iota in her confidence. 



ws^->i-M-'M^jm 



CHAPTER V 

WHILE strawberry-shortcake was the os- 
tensible object of Stacy's begged-for 
invitation, his real one was further 
opportunity of conversation with the cool, keen- 
witted, fascinating Hazel. It was five-thirty when 
he arrived at the Webster home, and past nine be- 
fore Uncle Asa (who had led the way to the trel- 
lised porch, followed later by Hazel) yawned, said 
" I guess it's 'bout time to turn in; be on hand in 
good time, to-morrow, Mr. Whipple," and bade him 
good-night. 

And then Stacy, seated on the upper porch step, 
his charmer in a low chair, as far from him as 
possible, was — much to his satisfaction — alone 
with her. To add romance, if any were needed, 
the moon was just peeping over the wooded hills, 
fireflies twinkled above the meadow below them 
and in the maples, and the only sound heard in 
this secluded dell was the near-by murmuring 
brook. 

"I little thought the other day, while fighting 
my way through that awful swamp," began Stacy, 
55 



«^">''»« 



i r 



56 THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

" that I should come upon you at its outlet, or find 
so deligluful a man as your father. Miss Webster. 
Ifs been only about three days since I accosted 
him, and he already seems like a father to me, and 
one of the salt of the earth." 

" I am glad you like him," returned Hazel cour- 
teously. " He is all the world to me. He and my 
band of pupils," she added after a pause, " for they 
occupy most of my thought during school terms." 

" And so you are not lonesome here, in this quiet 
hamlet ? " queried Stacy curiously. " I should think 
you might be ? " 

"No, never; my school and helping mother, for 
we ktep no girl, takes all my time, and when I want 
company I've two girl friends glad to see me. 
Then I lo-.'e books, for they are even more enter- 
taining friends." 

" And your music," interrupted Stacy. " I see 
you have a piano and banjo, as well as auto-harp — 
when do they come in ? " 

" Why, odd hours," she smiled, " or when I feel 
sentimental. Then I strum away on one or an- 
other of them, according to my mood." 

"And theirs, also, I assume, for each has a dif- 
ferent one, I've a theory? " 

^^ "Yes, that is so," she answered interestedly 
and they are wide apart. A piano is of the city. 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 57 

and without soul or feeling, an auto-harp suggests 
the romantic ballads of the Irish nation or Scotch 
love songs, while a banjo bears me to the Sunny 
South and its plantation scenes and barn dances, 
or black Romeos canoeing with their dusky Juliets." 
"I see you have either traveled much or read 
widely," he interposed, " or you could not so locate 
the moods of your musical instruments: Which 
IS it, if I may ask?" 

" Why, reading," she answered candidly. " The 
only large city I was ever in was yours, with father 
for a four days' visit, and I was at school in Barre, 
which, I presume, you would call provincial." 

"Well, yes and no. Miss Webster," he returned 
as candidly. " Provincialism is not defined by the 
size of a town, but rather by the average culture 
of Its inhabitants. I was never in Barre but once 
and then on business. I should Judge, as I now re- 
call its people and public buildings, churches and 
library, that it could not be classed as provincial." 

Then, and with the intention of drawing her 
out, he led the conversation into the book world, 
with results that astonished him. He was fairly 
well read himself for a busy man, both in current 
fiction and the classics; had traveled much and 
attained to the intellectual polish which contact with 
all classes and grades of humanity gives; was a 



58 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



keen observer of human nature; and yet here, in 
this byway hamlet, and now seated near him, was 
a rustic maid (so believed by him) who had outread 
him two to one, and with a keen discernment and 
scope of analysis that astounded him. She had not 
traveled at all, yet the life in frontier towns of 
the West, their people, habits, manners, and cus- 
toms, with which he was familiar, were as much 
so to her. Through reading she had seen miners' 
cabins, gambling saloons, dance halls, their orgies, 
shootings, lynchings, and all that made up frontier 
life. She had thus seen cowboy roundups, their 
" chuck wagon," branding operations, and wild rides 
through towns, shooting at everybody and every- 
thing. She was as famii;.->r as he with the grand 
canyons of the West, its wondrous Garden of the 
Gods, imposing mountains, vast plains and alkali 
deserts — even more so, in a way. Purposely, too, 
perhaps, and to confound this city man, who she 
knew had traveled in this region, she, with fem- 
inine wit, not only asked him questions that he 
found hard to answer, but pol'Lcly contradicted 
him now and then. 

Conversation has been aptly described as a game 
of circles, in which each participant tries to sur- 
round and out 'o the other. In this case, Stacy, a 
trifle conceited, perhaps, not only found himself 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 59 

outdone gracefully, but often put on the defensive. 
" I confess you surprise me with your wide range 
of reading. Miss Webster," he admitted at last 
And your retentive memory. Once you read a 
book, Its facts are at your tongue's end and in 
orderly array. I've met some so-called bookish 
ladies, but you surpass them all for a retentive 
memory and absorption of data." 

" I do not read so much to amuse myself as to 

■mprove myself." she returned in a gratified tone 

I have never traveled; I never expect to, but I 

wish to know how other people live, and all about 

their manners and customs." 

" But when and how do you find the time" " he 
queried in surprised tone. " You said your school 
and home duties absorbed it all ? " 

" You have never lived in the country much, 
I guess, with a light laugh, "or you wouldn't 
ask that. Do you k„ow what it is to have weeks 
n.onths, years of evenings, with nothing to do but 
read . There are ,io social diversions in Oakdale " 
she continued regretfully, "no theaters, not even a 
to«„ hall to tempt an Vurlo Tom's Cabin band of 
barnstormers, no dances, not even the oW vulgar 
k.ssing parties so all we can do i, u, cat, read and 
sleep. 

"And so you consider the ot,l tashioned kissing 



te 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



III 



parties vulgar?" responded Stacy, smiling. "I 
thought them great larks in my country-town boy- 
hood." 

"I do," she returned spiritedly; "especially 
among grown people, as used to be the case here. 
They may be permissible among school children, 
though a silly diversion, but for a gathering of 
adults — married and single — to disport them- 
selves in that way is — disgusting to me. There 
are some things that should always wear a halo." 

" I think you are right, Miss Webster," he ad- 
mitted slowly, after a pause, "quite right. But 
I was only thinking of them among children, and 
now, as it's nearly time for me to bid you good- 
night, please won't you bring out your auto-harp 
and play the tune I thought was ghost music the 
day I pounced out of the woods and scared you 
so? It's been haunting me ever since. Please 
favor me ? " 

" I do not play before strangers," she answered 
quite coolly. " I am not expert enough." 

"I hope some day you won't class me as a 
stranger," pointedly, " but I can't accept yout ex- 
cuse. Please favor me just once? " 

" You won't demand an encore, I am positive," 
she responded, laughing lightly, and without fur- 
ther evasion rose and brought forth her auto-harp. 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



6t 

pla>ed that plantation tnelody with exquisite grace 

equally adapted to that instrument 

And never before in Stacy's life were time, place 
?el;r " '" ''''"' ^"^ •- -" -ooci and 

J''''T^^°'!T ""' '"' ''^'- ^°"^'"^'"^ »-• 

lI>?»,-H . r "' °' ■'"""""•" =•"" 'hen she 
he promptly rose to go. 

not only for your many favors but the delightful 
ev.nmg I ve passed. May I ask the favor of an- 
other while lam here?" 

You are to be w.th us to-morrow I understand '' 
Tl«n. and much to his surpri.se. she held out her 

stet- 1/"' ■'" '! ''" ''"^ ^'°°P'"^ '° kiss it. in. 
td H .7 '"''"'' '''^'" '"^^"■"^ °f <he!r fingers 
n fanta , patches througl, the maples adown the 
ane he f „owed the fireflies in them, the low me.! 

ib^tr;^^;;;'^^"""-''"-^- 

siaer light, the mountains further 



6a THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

away and faintly out lined, each and all seem a new 
and wondrous fairyland. 

" In love?" you ask. 

No, not yet; merely touched by that mystic, 
magic wand that ever has created and ever will 
create this world anew. 

Another vision inspired by this moonlit landscape 
mainly, yet partially also by the piquant Hazel, soon 
came to Stacy when he reached the top of a low hill 
hal f way back to Oakdale. From this vantage point 
the village beyond, white and spectral in the moon- 
light, rose before him. To the left, the vale, at the 
apex of which stood that hamlet, opened southward. 
Through this the four-mile spiral of Elbow Creek, 
now full to the brim, glistened in the night's silver 
light, with rim of ocean bordering it and reflecting 
Luna's smile. And now, halting here in contem- 
plative mood once more, Stacy saw the city his 
mission here was possibly to bring into existence; 
saw its fine buildings, its tall church spires, its busy 
streets, its crowding population, with the masts of 
commerce pointing skyward where ocean met the 
broad valley. Then back to Maple Dell his mind 
now turned, and to the pride and poverty located 
there. He thought of Uncle Asa, well on in years 
and robbed of all his earnings, of his household, 
barely existing in the worn-out, moss-coated house 



'i/'y.^^k^^iiL'.m^ 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 63 

and of Hazel, doublless contributing . , of her 
meager earnings to the family need*, wea ,,ig only 
the simplest raiment, and a reclu-r, while capable of 
bemg a social leader. And as ,acu feature of this 
prospective city, each possibility of change and bet- 
tcnnent to Uncle Asa and Ha.d — now gning to 
waste through the gorge c, Rocky Glen -came to 
Stacy like an inspiration, n ne.v amWiior. ?■<,] .in- 
born desire to become il,c ma.'.ti ■ vu] and bring 
this forth thrilled him. Wit), i. .), ,, a ,d p,,haps 
mspired by the sequestered lo.naicf of flazri's 
syringa-embowered and trellised porch, and auto- 
harp, with moonlight and firefly settinfj, came an- 
other and sweeter ambition with her a.s its queen. 
Only for the moment, however, did he feel sure 
for recalling his one love experience and its hun^lia- 
t.on, his ever-present distrust of all womankind, his 
love of freedom and latent skepticism, as he now 
did, that hope or outcome seemed but a nassm? 
mood. 

"It's moonlight, music, and soulful eyes com- 
bined, that's all," he said to himself, now striding 
onward towards the hotel, "and to-morrow it will 
all vanish like a cloud shadow. But I'd like to pull 
Uncle Asa out of his hole, and dress lla.cl as she 
deserves, for aii that. 

And that impulse and ambition has built more 



64 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



I' i 



homes and consummated more marriages than all 
others combined. 

Hazel, however, felt quite otherwise just now, for 
unknown to her father she was perfectly conscious 
that he had been robbed by Cuitis North and would 
never receive a penny from his investment. But 
tell him so, or even hint it? Never, not if she were 
forced to walk barefoot across coals of fire! 

" I can't understand why that man is so anxious 
to make up with father, or flatter me,- she said to 
herself after Stacy had vanished down the lane. 
" He is nice-appearmg, polite as ' by your leave,' but 
I am afraid of him. He talks too sweetly. There 
is something back of his excuse that he is here for 
a week's outing. City men don't e - to Oakdale 
alone just for that! I shall watch him! Anyhow, 
he can't wheedle more money out of father, for he 
hasn't any more ! " 



CHAPTER VI 



ANOTHER breakfast' upon the same soiled 
tablecloth at Landlord Gates's hostelry and 
another rare June day had come when 
Stacy walked out of " The Corners " following the 
now familiar road toward Uncle Asa's. A few 
farmers were mowing upon the upland meadows 
east of Oakdale, the whir and clatter of mowing 
machines mingled with the bobolinks' singing as 
they circled about and above the roadway; to the 
southward th*- valley opened its broadening vista 
of green salt marsh, and a dozen left-over stacks of 
salt hay rose in the distance just back from the 
bordering ocean. Uncle Asa's boathouse peeped 
above the green expanse a few hundred rods out 
from and opposite the lane leading up to his home, 
and here Stacy found the path, a single plank walk 
on stilts leading out to it. Here, also, he now 
found the three girls and Uncle Asa awaiting him. 
A pleasant greeting from the latter and Hazel, 
and an introduct, .n to two plump country girls, 
Mollie Bascom and Bertha Phinney. who eyed him 
curiously, came next. Stacy assisted »hem into 
65 



r\ 



66 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



h 



Uncle Asa's big dory, the mast and lug sail of 
which were now furled and projecting from the 
bow. Uncle Asa grasjjed the oars, and the start 
down the four-mile course of the winding creek 
was made. 

" It's perty easy goin' out with the current," ob- 
served Uncle Asa as the well-loaded craft swept 
onward with the outgoing tide, " but it's a long way 
back agin it. We alius start on top o' the tide," 
he added, glancing over his shoulder to swing 
around a bend, " 'n' come back with it." 

" I might save you watching your course by steer- 
ing with the spare oar," asserted Stacy, noticing 
the need of it; " that is if one of you two girls on 
the back seat will change places with me," he added, 
addressing them. 

Hazel, who was one of them, arose speedily, the 
exchange was made, and Stacy, piqued a trifle by her 
evident wish to let the other girl sit beside him, 
began steering. 

But the day, the anticipation, the exhilaration of 
the inblowing sea breeze, together with Uncle Asa's 
droll badinage and the bantering of Hazel's two 
friends, soon drove away Stacy's pique and began to 
ir.erge him into the jollity of the outing, and a share 
in the chaffing. Hazel also th.iwed out a tride, now 
and then he received a smile from lier, and later at 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



67 



the request of her father, she reached under a piece 
of old sail, covering a Iiamper, and sundry " fixin's " 
in the bow of the dory, and much to his surprise 
drew forth a banjo. 

She played and sang, too, ofif hand, without urg- 
ing. "Nancy Lee," " iMy Roving Sailor Boy," 
"Old Zip Coon," and similar ditties, the other 
girls joined in. Uncle Asa's face wore a contented 
smile, and so the outgoing trip was made. And a 
jolly, fuU-of-good-spirits one, it was also. 

At the mouth of the creek. Stacy, his mind re- 
curring to his vision of a populous city arising 
where The Corners now stood, noticed and noted 
a small harbor broadening out from it and shut in 
from the ocean by a ridge of sand. A narrow inlet 
gave egress at one end of this, into which the sea 
waves entered white-capped, and close to it stood a 
somewhat dilapidated spile wharf. 

" We'll tie up here." said Uncle Asa. pulling up 
to it, " -n' unload. Then I'll go out 'n' pull my 
pots, 'n' when the tide lowers 'nufT we'll dig some 
clains. Hazcl'll show you whar we set table 'n' 
make a fire," he added, glancing at Stacy as he 
stepped out on the wharf, and soon the landing and 
unloading was accomplislied. Stacy of course 
made himself useful as Hazel directed, the hamper, 
baskets, and a big iron pot were carried by him to 



68 THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

a tiny grove at one end of the sand ridge, and then 
he showed his tact and good sense. 

" You girls are not to do anything except to set 
the table by and by," he said, assuming leadership 
now. "Just go down the beach, gather shells or 
d>g in the sand like children, if you wish, while I 
pick up some firewood. I am here to do the work 
so let me, please." And nothing loth, off the three 
went. Later, and as he expected, he noticed them 
a quarter-mile away down the beach, minus shoes 
and stockings and skipping back and forth as the 
incoming waves washed up and met them on the 
sloping sands. And now, well versed in such out- 
ings, he first unpacked the hampers, spread the 
tablecloth on the table, set it with the dishes piled 
the food upon it and then began gathering drift- 
wood for fuel. Then, and after lighting a cigar, 
he strolled over to where the sea waves rolled into 
the inlet. 

Here, also, and noticing Uncle Asa far to sea- 
ward pulling his pots, Stacy looked around, im- 
pressed by the utter .solitude, yet sea-coast charm of 
his surroundings. Far up and down the in and 
ou. curving beach, the white-crested waves were 
eurhn,, and breaking, a flock of gulls kept circling 
ahove or lighting upon an outjutting sand ba,- 
sedge-covered sand dunes arose back of the beach 



'i! 
ii: 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 69 

as far as he could see, and beyond them were low 
luUs covered with bushes, while inside of the long 
sand ridge upon which he stood the twenty-acre bay 
was barely rippled by the breeze. Not a houso or 
human being was now visible except the group of 
girls far away down on shore, and Uncle Asa a 
mile to seaward in his dory. Beyond him, how- 
ever, were many white-winged coasters, just now 
suggestive to Stacy of what the future of this 
protected bay might hold. 

For a long hour, and seated now in the shade of 
a sedge-topped sand dune, he mused upon his mis- 
sion here. Hazel's charm, Uncle Asa's plight, and the 
grandeur of a lonely wave-washed shore stretching 
miles away. He grew a little lonely, too, in his soli- 
tude, and when he saw the girls returning, hastened 
to meet them. He felt grateful, too, for their 
smiles, even the quiet little one from Hazel, and the 
You have made yourself very u.seful," which she 
vouchsafed when noticing what he had done Then 
Uncle Asa, with his lug sail set, rounded into the 
cove. Stacy hurried to meet him, saw that his pots 
had yielded a fine catch of lobsters, and now, the 
tide being out, the two, with basket and clam fork 

feLt°"' ''""'"^ "'' '"^'" """ °^ "" f°«'^'^°"""S 
"How deep is the water in this back bay?" 



! i 



III 



ll 



70 THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

queried Stacy when with shoes anH stockings off he 
was picking up the clams out-turned by Uncle Asa's 
fork. 

" Wal, it's 'bout three fathom in the channel, low 
t.de, answered Uncle Asa, " 'n' mebbe one to 
two over most on't." 

" A fair-sized schooner could run in then," re- 
joined Stacy nonchalantly. 

" Wal, yes, at high water." returned Uncle Asa 
unconscious of his companion's thought. " Thar is 
one fetches coal fer Squire Phinney every fall, a 
two-hundred-tonner owned in Barre. I've some- 
times thought," he added slowly, "that if the crick 
wuz dug out some, she could be towed up to whar 
my boathouse is, 'n' save haulin' coal over four 
mile o' sand. Nobody thinks on't, though, but me 
In fact, nobody comes down here much but me 'n' 
I pick up a good many dollars ketchin' 'n' sel'lin' 
lobsters, year through. I'd ruther do that than 
farm it. I like the smell o' the sea, too, 'n' it's 
bracin'." 

" Oakdale's asleep," thought Stacv, " but it will 
wake up a year from now." Then the clams were 
washed. Stacy put on his foot garb, an.l the two 
men returned to where the giris were. 

Uncle Asa took charge now, put sea water in 
.the big iron pot he had brought, filled it with clan „ 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 71 

started the fire, then went to his boat and returned 
with five lobsters spht and ready for broiling. 
Meanwhile, Hazel and her two mates had reset the 
Uble, adding a few wild flowers they had brought, 
and in due time the party gathered around it and 
partook of a meal, the zest of which, aided by the 
crisp sea breeze, can never be equaled by any cafe 
or hotel the wide world over. The crowning fea- 
ture, also, was an ample supply of field strawberries, 
picked by Hazel that morning, with a jar of cream 
that came packed in ice, to add richness. 

And just now, as he compared this meal with the 
corned-beef-and-cabbage one of tlie day previous, 
and Hazel with the gum-chewing maid who served 
It, Stacy felt tliat for once the gods had been good 
to him. 

After this, and since the girls insisted upon it. 
Stacy and Uncle Asa withdrew to a shady spot. leav- 
mg them to attend to matters for which they were 
better trained than men, and here Uncle Asa, satis- 
fied with what had come about so far, gave utter- 
ance to a few homely truths and confidences that 
may well be quoted. 

" Good vittles," he said in response to praise 
from Stacy of this unique meal, " is 'bout all the 
real comfort we git out o' livin', arter all. We 
build fine liouses. put on show-off clothes 'n' strut 



72 THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

'round some, but nothin", to my mind, is more con- 
solin' than suthin' that tastes jist right. We Kve 
quiet-like," he added as if that n«*vl assert- 
ing, " Martha keeps the house clean, tww ^n' then 
chases m« with a mop or broom, Hawl goes to 
meetin' to si ,, twice a week, n fptch«s 'nuflf prayer 
home to keep us goin', 'n' so we hve. Then thar's 
the twx. boys, Martha's ye know; wrti, them boys, 
I callate, never inherited much o' the grace o' good- 
ness, or ketched it either. They keep me guessin' 
most o' the time to figger out what scrape they'll 
git into next. I can't coax 'em or scare 'em to 
work, they play hookey from school 'most every 
day — I'm glad they don't go to Hazel's — 'n' my 
Idee is they'll fetch up in jail. Curis, too." he 
added meditatively, " how what's bred in the bone'll 
come out in the flesh. Now their father — wal, he 
was counted no good, 'n' hung himself in a fit o' 
tremers, 'n' — wal, I s'pose my takin' up Martha 
'n' them boys was one o' the crosses the parson 
sez we've all got to shoulder to git into heaven. I 
thmk I'll am a harp, too, if them boys keeps on 
the way they're goin'. 

" Thar's one thing alius comforts me," he con- 
tinued after a pause; "we ain't to blame fer our 
relations, but I'm dern thankful we kin pick our 
friends. Now, I hain't many relations livin', but 






THE CASTLE BUILDERS 73 

those I had alius borrowed money o' me 'n' never 
paid it back, 'n' one, a nevy, cost me over a thou- 
sand dollars gittin' him out o' scrapes, 'n' when I 
wouldn't any more, called me a lusscd miser." 
" Ungrateful, eh? " interjected Stacy. 
" Wal, no, couldn't call it that," returned Uncle 
Asa; "jist the habit o' relations. I've heard it 
said, if ye \.ant money go to strangers, if ye want 
advice go to friends, 'n' if ye want nothin', go to 
your relations, but mine alius turned this 'round 
'n' kep' me poor." Then he paused, sighed, and 
looked away out over the broad ocean, as if a less 
selfish world might lie beyond it. 

"I hain't much longer to stay," he continued 
after this. " I've done the best I could for every- 
body, 'n' the one thing worryin' me is Hazel 'n' 
her futer. Martha's got 'nuflF to live on in her 
own right, but all I got fer Hazel is the house that 
ain't wuth shinglin', some land, 'most worn out, 
B'ar Hole Swamp, 'n' that Rawhide stock. 'N' 
when I git thinkin' on't 'n' the cuss that bamboozled 
me, my hide gits raw, too, dern him ! 

" Hazel is peculiar, too," he added after another 
pause; "so fussy she won't look at Oakdile bojs, 
'count o' their manners 'n' ways. One on 'em tried 
to spark her, fact all on 'em hev one time or 'nother, 
but this un, wal, he come courtin' with cowhide 



74 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



i; 



boots 'n* dirty shirt on, 'n' Haiel shut the door i«i 
his face. I gin her two years o' schoolin' in Barre, 
let her stay thar one winter to l<etch onto city ways, 
'n' it spiled her fer Oakdale fellers, I'm sartin." 

And just now, recalling her as she impressed him 
the evening previous, Stacy did not wonder at it. 

He also felt a little piqued at the way she had 
treated him so far this day. He had not expected 
any alone-with-her chats v^ith these two mates of 
hers in the party, still she might have been more 
companionable, and at least invited him to gather 
shells or pick flowers with herself and her com- 
panions, in place of the long hour he was left to 
solitary meditation, he thought. And just now, 
with dishes washed and packed, instead of joining 
Uncle Asa and himself, they were again romping 
down the beach, tlirowing skip-stones or gathering 
shells. Beyond all question, he wasn't in the game, 
or so considered. 

Hut the rising tide and lowering sun soon said 
that it was time to return, at least Uncle Asa now 
asserted it, and led the way to reloading the boat, 
and the return was begun. Then, and for the first 
time during this day's outing. Miss Hazel disclosed 
a shade of coquetry, or disposition to be kind to 
Stacy. 

I'm going to sit in the stern with you, Mr. 



^wmsm-M.n^'^'m 



TIIK CASTLE BUILDERS 75 

Whipple, • she said gaily, a, .,0, first to ent.r the 
boat, did so. " I like to look al.ead and watch the 
birds, and sometimes we see a huiskrat plunirc off 
the bank." 

■' Will you play the bnnjo if I permit you? " he 
returned, in the same bantering tone. "Jf «>, I 
shall esteem it an honnr." 

" If you will sing, I'll play," -I„. replied, smiling 
M him, for the fact was that this or.tilt little lady 
fflt that their guest d. served some lonsideralion. 

And now, across the bay and into the narrowing 
creek, with their boat in the shadow of lie tall 
marsh grass, -ht tuned up Iht b.inio, and even 
Uncle Asa fwt compdk,! to j in in the chorus of 
"Oan.ly Jim of Caroline," Kingdom ComiiiR," 
" Old Xic, lemiis," '• Sitwanec River," and a do/> ,1 
other plantation ballads suited to a banjo. Now 
and then she interjected a sentimental one, and 
when the mountain shadow had crossed the nar- 
rowing valley .and they nearing home, she sang 
" ^*""' Gray " and " Massa's in the Cold. Cold 
Ground " with a caress of feeling, and marvelous 
soprano voicf, that thrilled every fiber o, Stacv's 
soul. 

" I don't like them," she said, in response to liis 
words of praise, after she stopped. " Thos. songs 
arc too melancholy. They seem appropriate, how- 



I 



MfCKUCOfY RESOIUTION TEST CHART 

lANSl and ISO TEST CHART No, 2) 




^ APPLIED INA4GE Inc 



1653 £qs( Moii 5 



76 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



i ' 



I 



\i i 

::l 



cer, just at sunset, after a pleasant day's outing," 
she added a moment later, "and a contrast from 
the foolish ones I've been inflicting upon you." 

Stacy, of course, as was his duty, helped Uncle 
Asa carry things up to the house, gave due thanks to 
both him and Hazel for the day's enjoyment, bade 
them adieu courteously, and then, carrying, in two 
packages, the two pairs of lobsters which Uncle 
Asa had insisted that Hazel's chums should take 
home, he departed villageward with them. 

And now he found they were much more gra- 
cious and chatty with him during the walk than 
Hazel had been. 

Later, and after Uncle Asa had finished his milk- 
ing. Hazel met him at the barn-yard gate. 

"Has Mr. Whipple said anything to you yet 
about investing in any mine stock, father?" she 
asked. 

" Why, no," he answered positively ; " what put 
that into your head, girlie ? " 

" You won't if he does, will you, father ; promise 
me that?" 

" Sartin, sure I won't," watching her curiously. 
" I hain't no more money to put into anything." 
Then, and after another long stare at her, he added, 
" Put that notion right out o' your head, Hazel 'n' 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS t^ 

keep it out. That man ain't no mine sharper, he 
ain't, 'n' I like him." 

" So you did the other one, you said, father." 
" That's true," he answered, sighing; " 'n' I wuz 
wrong. Mebbe I'rh wrong now, mebbe I am." 

And that evening Stacy, who found Sam and his 
Old Guard almost stupid companions, had hard 
work not to do a foolish thing -or what seemed 
so to him — and hie himself away to Maple Dell. 



CHAPTER VII 



i 



A RAINY day to a busy man in a city is but 
an incident scarce noticed, and evaded by 
an umbrella, while in transit from home to 
office or store, or returning; but to such a one, shut 
in a small country village hotel, with posters on its 
office walls, or one or two old weekly papers for 
sole reading matter, it is "pizen," as Uncle Asa 
would say. 

Such a day faced Stacy the morn succeeding his 
delightful shore outing. Sam was surly, the Old 
Guard missing, and after two hours of watching 
the highway, while not a soul passed, he grew 
desperate, donned his waterproof coat, and with 
rod and basket started for Rocky Glen brook. A 
fair catch of trout and a thorough soaking were 
his reward, and returning, a sudden and heavier 
downpour as he neared the byway schoolhouse of 
Hazel's occupancy, drove him into its porcli. 
Curiously now, and for what reason he never knew, 
he tried its door and, much to his surprise, found 
it unlocked. To enter was no harm, he felt, and 
so he did. There was nothing in it of value, school 
78 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 79 

term having closed the week pi-evious, a few ink- 
stands and useless pens scattered along the wall- 
shelf — the old-time way around desks in such 
temples, the teacher's desk was locked, and back of 
it, above the small platform, was the customary 
blackooard. All these simple fittings were but re- 
minders of his own boyhood, for in such a building 
Stacy had first received tuition, and then as his 
eyes traversed the room, a curious chalk-made pic- 
ture on the blackboard caught them. It was meant 
to be that of a young lady, holding a rod in one 
hand, a book in the other, and beneath it the legend, 
" My teacher, I love her." 

And then, despite his rain-soaked condition and 
hunger — it was past noon now — Stacy laughed 
heartily at the schoolboy handiwork and inscription, 
both so grotesque and absurd. 

" Well, I don't blame you, whoever you are," he 
exclaimed after the laugh; "I guess I shall love 
her myself if I stay here a week." 

And then, seating himself while he waited for 
a lull in the downpour, both the comic and pathetic 
side of this incipient love disclosure came to him. 

" Love is both the biggest fool illusion and the 
nearest-to-i.eaven one that stirs human emotions," 
he commented aloud. " I know just Iiow that boy 
felt. I had the same dose myself once, and how 



9 

Ml 



nti 



8o 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



many miles I tramped to find and bring that blue- 
eyed schoolma'am bunches of arbutus and sweet 
flag buds to win a thank-you. I'm glad nobody 
but myself ever knew. And what double-distilled, 
dyed-in-the-wool fools that insanity will make of 
a man," he added, liow thinking of La Rosa 
Can ■ : " for once the mania is on, they will not 
only sink into mumbling idiocy, but find forgiveness 
for a woman who not only betrays every trust, but 
scorns even decency! We prate about being 
strong, we men," he continued sneeringly, " but we 
are as limp rags wound round the finger of a pretty 
woman when in love with her, and willing, even 
thankful to be used to wipe her shoes with! Bah, 
what fools we are, and can't help it either ! " 

Then glancing around the little bare, cheerless 
room, with its warped floor, open Franklin stove, 
smoke-browned rafters, and knife-hacked benches, 
the peculiar situation and pathos of Hazel's life 
came to him, and how, even on the worst of wintry 
days, she faced icy blasts and snowdrifts to earn 
a few dollars to help pay home bills! And he had 
lavished over a theasand in eight months on La 
Rosa Carmen, with the net result of despising him- 
self in return! 

" I've got the experience, anyhow," he muttered 
grimly, now leaving the poor little hovel of leara- 



-^ . 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 8i 

ing, " but guess I'd better cut stick from Oakdale 
before I get any more." 

When he reacheu the hotel — this being Satur- 
day—a letter awaited him from Bert Colby, his 
partner, that now forced the same conclusion. 

" If you are satisfied with your examinations of 
Oakdale streams and their availability foi our pur- 
pose," it said, " you had better go to Barre at once 
and close contracts. Make dates for on-account 
payments as early as possible, also insert a for- 
feiture clause in contract, all properly witnessed. 
Shall expect you back by Wednesday. There is 
another deal on which may necessitate your going 
to Nevada this summer." 

"All right, my boy," exclaimed Stacy, after 
perusing this missive, and then Uncle Asa's plight 
and the Rawhide swindle recurred to him at once. 
" I'll look you up, Mr. Curtis North, you and 
your swindling act, when I go to Nevada," he 
added, " and see if there is any show to jail you." 

With dry clothing on, Stacy now betook himself 
to the piazza to watch the sun, just smiling out 
from above the western mountains, and wait for 
supper and a feast upon the trout he had brought 
in. And just then he spied Uncle Asa coming up 
the road with a basket in his hand. 
" I thought I'd fetch ye a little suthin' to tickle 



82 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



ycr tongue witli," lie said cheerily, now mounting 
the piazza where Stacy was alone. " I went down 
the crick to-day to bait my pots over, 'n' dug ye 
a mess o' them clams ye liked so well. Thar's four 
lobs, too," he added, handing the weed-topped 
basket to Stacy, " 'n' ye ki.-7 hev 'em brilcd or biled, 
ez ye like." Then, and after due and cordial thanks 
from Stacy, he seated himself n>^ar him. 

" Be ye goin' to stop here much c' ne.xt week? " 
he queried after a pause, and glancing curiously at 
Stacy. " If so, mebbe I kin take ye fishin' 'nother 
day, or we kin go to the beach agin, jist you 'n' I 
'n' Hazel, or take i:er chums 'long, ez ye prefer. 
I s'pose ye hev other business here 'cept jest in- 
jyin' yerself, Mr. VVhipplr ' " 

It was an adroit <]uery .r Uncle Asa, but Stacy, 
keener than he to read others' minds, saw that 
something lay beyond this. 

" I have and I haven't, Uncle Asa," he answered 
candidly. "That is, I came here for a double 
reason ; the principal one to enjoy a few days' rest, 
the other to look this town over for a purpose I 
can't even hint to you. It isn't to sell mine stock or 
anything to anyone, however," he added, smiling. 
"Some day I will tell you first of all what the 
purpose is, bti. until then, may I ask you to promise 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



83 



positively not to repeat what I have said to anyone, 
not even lo your daughter, HazeL' " 

" I will, sartin," returned Uncle Asa, looking re- 
lieved; " 'n' here's my hand on't," and he extended 
his to Stacy. 

" I hope ye'll 'scuse me for sorter pryin' into yer 
business," he continued ; " only knowin' the kind o' 
layout Sam sets up, I thought it must be some busi- 
ness that 'ud keep ye here long." 

"Not more than a month, anyhow," laughed 
Stacy, " unless you'd take me for a boarder, with 
fishing or on shore trips every day. However, I 
can't go again. I am to leave here Monday." 

" I'm sorry, Mr. Whipple, derned sorry," Uncle 
Asa ejaculated earnestly. " I've kinder took to ye 
ez it war, 'n' I'd like to see more o' ye. Can't ye 
come agin 'fore summer's gone? " 
^^ "I may," returned btacy, his heart warming, 
" and you may be sure I shall expect you to take me 
on all sorts of outings if i do." He came near add- 
ing Hazel's name to this cordial wisli, but did not. 
" There is another mattei I can assure you on," 
lie continued in lower tone and glance at the hotel 
door. " I shall go to Nevada this summer and will 
look up your mine investment and advise you ". 
there is any show for you to get your money back. 



84 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



m 



Also, and if possible, I'll set the minions of the !a. 
on this Curtis North if he can be found." 

" I iiank ye, Mr. Whipple, I thank ye from way 
down," responded Uncle .\sa earnestly, and ri.<ing. 
" I must be goin' back now, it's 'most chore time. 
I'm sorry it's Sunday to-morrow," he added, oflfer- 
ing his hand again. "I'd take ye out some'rs if 
'twa'n't. You'll — you'll drop down to see us in 
the evenin', won't ye ? " 

" I cei linly shall," returned Stacy as earnestly, 
" dnd thank you for your kind assurances of good 
will." 

" Nice old man," he soliloquized after Uncle Asa 
was well away from the hotel steps ; " good as gold, 
and honest 33 the day is long. But how the devil 
came he to link that termagant widow to his for- 
tunes or poverty, ,ith Hazel to keep house for 
him ? " 

That evening with its late rising moon to once 
more outline tiie winding spiral of Elbow Creek 
with glints of silver sheen was a long one to Stacy. 
Sam and i..e Old Guard were in evidence as usual on 
Saturday evenings ; they told stories galore — some 
new to Stacy, some that were on crutches when he 
was a boy ; they discussed Oakdale gossip and Uncle 
Asa's afJairs — the latter with a freedom that now 
disgusted Stacy, until finally to escape this boredom 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 85 

he retreated to his room and solace of a lone cigar. 
Oakdale, wh e ;. charming rural hamlet, held only 
two people that now interested him. 

Sunday morning dawned bright ar.J fair. Stacy 
dressed in his best, waited fc first bell call and the 
arr/ing church attendants, then as soon as he saw 
Hazel come up the road, hastened to follow her into 
the larger of the two churches, and seated himself 
in a rear pew. The usual fair-sized congregation 
was there, or came in later. The regular order of 
prayer first, singing, scripture-reading, prayer again, 
then another hymn, came duly, but the only face 
that brought furtive glances from him was Hazel's 
piquant one, as it arose from the choir curtains over 
or back of the pulpit. The second hymn was sung 
by her alone and somehow Stacy, whose eyes never 
once left her faio during it, now wondered how so 
marvelously sweet a voice could issue from such 
girlish lips and throat. And best of all, she sang as 
though interceding for the lives of her hearers, yet 
as much at ease as a bobolink perched on a tree- 
top. He wondered, too if she saw him, hoped she 
wouldn't consider his comin- as impertinent curi- 
osity, or his watching her rude conduct ; and as this 
was the f St time in two years he had been to 
church, he dropped a two-dollar bill — folded as 
small as possible — on the contribution plate. He 



86 



THE CASTLK BUILDERS 



I ! 



was starfd at covertly from all sides and the moment 
tlie benediction was uttered, liastet.ed out. 

He also watched for Hazel from his vantage point 
of the hotel piazza, saw her emerge from the sanc- 
tuary with one of her two girl chums after most had 
left it, then go away with her. Later, the two 
returned together, and after close of service Stacy 
received a smile and bow as she passed the hotel, 
homeward b'nmd. 

And now recalling Uncle Asa's peculiar inquiry, 
its way and wording, his evident relief on being 
assured that he had nothing to sell Oakdale people. 
Stacy saw a light. 

" Hazel thinks I am another Curtis North," he 
said to himself, and then he laughed aloud for he had 
been seriously hurt by her almost painful coldness. 
Then and there, also he formed another resolu- 
tion, two resolutions in ac First, that he would 
leave no stone unturned to find this mine swindler 
and make him disgorge, if possible; the other, that 
in no way or manner would he attempt to disabuse 
Miss Hazel until her own observation had enlight- 
ened her as to his kindly good-will toward her father. 
Pursuant of that intention, and from pique, also, he 
resolved that he would be as cool and indifferent 
towards her as she had been to him. at the call he 
was soon to make. .And .so it happened wlien hr 



Tllli CA.nLt: BUILDERS 



87 






once more walked Idsurely „p ,0 the svringn-flankecl 
front porch and fomi.l L'ncit Asa and ! fa«l occupy- 
ing It. Ills grcetiiij; lo lier was formally iiolitc, bm 
very cordial to lier father. 

" I enjoyed tliose .ms immensely, Uncle Asa " 
lie said at once. " Albion is so far inl.ind that «'e 
"t-ver get them there; it, the West tlity are an un- 
known del.- • ,y, and the banquet you served on the 
beach was one I shall recall many times -espe- 
cially those lobsters you broiled so nic-ly." 
" Wal, I'm glad on't," asserted Uncle Asa bluntly 
n' be.n" sorry ez I r!lu< am fer folks ez has to live 
m the city wnz why I ft ,ed ye 'nother mess. 

" I wouldn't live in the city if I wuz paid fer't " 
he continued, " street cars rattlin' all night, folks 
bun.pin' 'gainst ye whichever way turn 'n' 

skeered all the time least ye git yer p cet picked. 
1 he country's good 'nuff fer me." 

" Yes, and for me, too," admitted Stacy, " for it 
makes me feel myself a boy again and takes me back 
to boyhood days once more. I went lishing in the 
ram yesterday, Miss Webster," he continued in for- 
mal tone, turning to her, " and on my way back took 
refuge m your schoolhouse to escape a shower and 
had a hearty l.iugh over what I saw insi.le it." 

" You did ? " she queried curiously. " What was 
it? " 



88 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



!* I 



" Why, one of your boy pupils, I presume, is so 
enamored of you that he has drawn your picture in 
chalk on the blackboard and written under it, ' My 
teacher, I love her.' The picture, however, does not 
do you justice." 

"I wish you had rubbed it out," she responded 
flushing. " I don't like to be so caricatured." 

" I don't believe the boy meant it in that way," 
returned Stacy, smiling. " He was merely sufler- 
ing the qualms of incipient love and took that way 
of telling you. I once went through the same agony 
myself. And by the way," he added to change the 
subject, " permit me to thank you for the rare treat 
of your solo singing in church this morning. I did 
not know which church you sang in, I dared not ask 
Sam for fear of making comment here, so watched 
for and followed you. You have an exquisite voice 
of rare sweetness." 

" Thank you," she answered simply. " How did 
you like the sermon .' " 

" Why I — I don't believe it impressed me as it 
should, maybe," he answered hesitatingly; "too 
much or too profuse explanation of old Biblical doc- 
trine and why we must be sure to save our souls 
anyhow. Too doctrinal, I should say. What I 
want from the pulpit is up-to-date sermons, how to 
live rightly to-day, and what our duties to one an- 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



89 



other are in this day and generation. Christianity 
and the church are doing a great and noble work 
and making humanity better, more charitable, more 
conscientious, and the world more fit to live in day 
by day. But the church needs broader and more 
forceful preachers. Men who can thrill a congrega- 
tion, inspire them to rise above personal selfishness 
week days, teach them that doing good to-day is to 
improve the to-morrow of our race, shame them out 
of their indifference, and that to live the Golden 
Rule to-day is far better than to worry whether 
their souls will be saved to-morrow. Then, to my 
mind, the long-drawn-out argument of personal sal- 
vation is solely an appeal to our selfish natures and 
of no benefit to us." 

"'N' I agree with ye," interjected Uncle Asa 
promptly. " Grace o' God is skeerce in this world, 
'n' doin' ez ye'd be done by skeercer still, 'n' 'tain't 
helpin' matters to spend time tellin' folks a front 
seat 'n' a harp is all they need to live fer. I've alius 
figgered a good deed is the best sort o' prayer, 'n' 
counts most. It may not 'feet the scoffers, they'll 
say ye hev an ax ter grind anyway, but it'll 'feet 
now 'n' then one, mebbe. Leastwise, I alius feel 
more contented arter I've done somebody a good 
turn, 'n' the birds' singin' alius sounds a leetle 
sweeter." 



90 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



li i 



11' 



" You oiiglit to occupy our pulpit one Sunday, 
Mr. Whipple," interposed Hazel in tones that Stacy 
imagined held a note of sarcasm. " You certainly 
would enlist more attention than our minister." 

" Why, I gave him attention enough," rejoined 
Stacy curtly, "and if he failed to interest me it 
wasn't my fault, was it? " 

" No," she answered as spiritedly, " but I as- 
sume that you listened solely to criticise, not to be 
improved. Anyone can criticise and sneer, it's the 
easiest thing to do, but to be charitable and read the 
good intention beyond words is quite another 
matter." 

And then Stacy felt as if he had disturbed a hor- 
net's nest. 

" I admit your assertion," he responded suavely. 
" It is far easier to criticise than originate, or even 
be charitable. But you asked my opinion of the ser- 
mon ; I assumed you wished an honest one. Or 

is it as a noted cynic once asserted — ' folly to tell 
ladies the truth, they prefer lies so long as they be 
sweet!'. ' ? " 

There was a glint in Hazel's eyes at this which 
he fail.-d to see, but her answer came sweet as the 
murmuring brook. " Oh, yes, we do prefer lies and 
always have preferred them from force of habit," 
she answered suavely, " since about all we ever hear 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 91 

from the lords of creation is some fairy tale. I, for 
one, expect nothing else, and quite enjoy the stories 
that men make up — so long as I don't believe 
them." 

" You two'll git pullin' hair if ye keep on," inter- 
jected Uncle Asa, " 'n' 'tain't natVal. I never knew 
but one man who alius argered with a woman, 'n' 
he had to cook his own vittles finally, 'n' the only 
one who went with him when plantin' time come 
was the hearse driver, 'n' he wa'n't a mourner." 

Then Stacy laughed heartily and so the sharp- 
shooting ended. 

" I will admit that you have the better of the 
argument, Miss Webster," asserted Stacy after this, 
" but as music will soothe the savage breast, which 
means mine just now, won't you favor me with your 
auto-harp once more? As I leave in the morning 
and can't say when I'll visit Oakdale again, if ever, 
I'd like to carry away a pleasant memory." 

"And won't you without that?" she inquired 
pleasantly. " I certainly didn't mean to hurt your 
feelings." 

" I am sure you didn't," he returned earnestly, 
"and I enjoy a verbal tilt — ahvavs. But this 
porch, the surroundings and yourself here, seem so 
like a sequestered nook in a better world, I'd like to 
complete the illusion that way." 



92 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



f' 



" I thought you were to stay a week or more " — 
inquiringly — "it's only been four days?" 

" Five, to be exact, since I first heard your spirit 
music whispering through the pines." 

And just now, in spite of his intention of repay- 
ing Hazel in kind for her cool demeanor, Stacy 
wished Uncle Asa — good soul — would go to bed. 
But the evening was waning, and recognizing this, 
perhaps, as well as her callous mood, Hazel now 
brought out her auto-harp once more, and for a 
witching half-hour its tinkling melody vibrated 
through the moonlit maples, then Stacy arose. 

" I thank you. Miss Webster, and you. Uncle Asa, 
for what has made my Oakdale visit a red-letter one 
in my calendar," he said earnestly, and offering 
his hand, first to Uncle Asa, then to Hazel, " and 
now good-bye." 

And recalling that evening almost hourly for 
many days afterwards, its piquant charm, Hazel's 
perfect poise and repartee, her exquisite voice in 
church, the brook-like tinkle of her auto-harp, and 
the witchery of Maple Dell, each and all many times, 
their charm kept growing upon him until they 
seemed a glimpse into another and better world. 

" I'm going to all it Hazel Dell," he would say 
to himself whe . this mood was on, " for she is of 
it and akin to it in purity and sweetness." 



CHAPTER VIII 

STACY had expected that two days would suf- 
fice for his visit to Barre and the closing of 
contracts, but the preliminary haggling over 
terms, payments, etc., with the committee of five of 
the city's councilmen, consumed time, during which 
several things happened, and one disclosure came of 
peculiar interest which must be recorded. 

The fi<-El of these happenings was the introduction 
to him by the chairman of the committee in the hotel 
office the third evening of his stay in Barre of a 
dapper little person by the name of Leon Otero, 
who informed him that he had heaid of the city's 
plans for obtaining power from OaUdale, that he 
was agent for the supplying of emigrant labor on 
such work as Stacy had in hand, and was here for 
that purpose. He gave Stacy his card beariug a 
New York address, and politely requested that he 
might supply whatever laborers Stacy might need. 

" We shall want a hundred or more of them," 
Stacy assured him in response, "and I will keep 
your card and correspond with you as soon as we 
are ready to go ahead." 

93 



94 



THE CASILE BUILDERS 



J: 






" You haf your site for ze dem selected and ze 
land secured, liaf you not? " inquired Otero in for- 
eign accent. " There are two, ze committee tell me, 
can be used for ze dam ? " 

" Why, yes, three in fact," returned Stacy, now 
on guard. 

" But you, sir, must have decided which one is 
ze best," persisted Otero. " If you haf not and 
you wish me, I would advise. Ef you hire of me 
ze men I must go before and haf house put up for 
zem to live in." 

" I shall make no decision without further con- 
sultation with my partner," responded Stacy firmly, 
"and after that you may hear from me," and so 
closed the interview. 

Later, and after writing full details of proceed- 
ings so far to Colby, he began to give this Otero and 
his proposals some thought. 

" Curious, and I can't quite line up that fellow 
and his intentions," he muttered to liimself, loung- 
ing ;n one corner of the hotel ol"" -e in an easy chair, 
and iigliting a fresh cigar. " He seems anxious to 
find out what's none of his business, and where have 
I seen th,-i t face ? " 

And then backward through the pages of his 
memory .Stacy started to find this Otero's peculiar 
face, sinister and ?hifty black eyes and little black- 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 95 

pointed mustache 1 Somewliere he was positive, 
but where? Then he drew forth his card inscribed 
"Leon Otero, Emigrant Agent, 441 West 23rd 
Street, New York," and read it again as if therein 
lay a clue. In vain, for this fellow's face, either 
Spanish or Mexican, he was positive, still eluded 
him. After a half-hour of this vexatious pursuit 
of a face, he telephoned Davis, chairman of the 
committee he was negotiating with, for informa- 
tion regarding this fellow. The answer was vague 
and also suspicious, inasmuch as it appeared that 
this Otero had presented himself to Barre's commit- 
tee a fev days previous to Stacy's arrival, and pos- 
sessed the information that these negotiations were 
in progress and that Oakdale had been selected as 
site for the intended power supply. The source of 
this information was not forthcoming, however. 

" It must be in the air," Davis asserted to Stacy 
after this explanation. " He came to me with the 
assurance that he had been informed of our inten- 
tion and was anxious to secure the contract for 
laborers, which seemed plausible. I told him you 
were the one to apply to. and were expected here in 
a few days, and he has been waiting for you There 
is another man with him, stranger here also, an older 
man — red face, white side-whiskers. They are 
stopping at another hotel than vours, I believe " 



9<5 THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

It wasn't much information, but some, and cer- 
tainly mysterious for the reason that this Otero had 
obtained facts which Stacy had hitherto supposed 
were known only to his firm and Barre's committee. 
"There is somethiiig queer about this," Stacy 
muttered, hanging up the receiver, and then this 
Otero's persistent anxiety to obtain the location of 
the intended reservoir struck him as pecuhar an 
uncalled for. 

" He'll find out nothing! " Stacy muttered again, 
and then began to wonder who this other stranger 
was, and what possible connection he had with 
Otero's mission here. 

The next morning, and while strolimg along the 
limited water front of Barre, whom should he meet 
but this Otero again, and with him a rather flashily- 
attired gentleman with luxuriant white side-whisk- 
ers, whose flushed face and rotund stomach, across 
which lay a massive gold watch chain, betokened 
prosperity, at least. "This ees my friend, Mr. 
Curtis," Otero said, thus introducing him after 
formally greeting Stacy. " He ees here on pleasure 
himself, it ees." 

"Just looking this country over for a few days," 
explained Curtis airily, " and to keep an eye on my 
friend, Otero." 
" I shall hope you will haf your beesness con- 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 97 

eluded, Mr. Whipp-e," added Otero, " and I can ob- 
tain your order for ze men you will need before you 
leaf. Shall you go again to Oakdale befor; to 
Albion ? " 

" I don't expect to," responded Stacy curtly. " I 
shall, however, write you in New York as soon as 
we decide when we shall begin operations." And 
then the two passed on. 

" It's he, by Jove, it's he! " exclaimed Stacy five 
mmutes later, after these two had passed beyond ear- 
shot, " and the identical man vho swindled Uncle 
Asa I " 

Then back to a little smoke-dimmed gambling den 
m a Nevada mining camp he flew in thought, and to 
the two pals he had seen snapping cards there! 

But the name, Curtis, in place of North the 
sharper who had invaded Oakdale, and the reason 
thereof combined to form a new mystery. Piqued 
by this even more than by the other one, he now 
turned upward from the water front and hastened 
to the only other reputable hotel in Barre to look 
on its register. That yielded a clue, for turning 
Its pages a week back, there in told flowing hand 
was the name " Pentecost Curtis " from New York 
above that of Otero ! 
Then Stacy gave vent to a low whistle. 

Some snakes mit de grass,' as Old Rip said," 



98 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



(I ■•! 



he thought, turning away, and hurried back to his 
own hotel to await ten o'clock, when he was to meet 
with the committee again. Here while he was 
cogitating upon these two peculiar and pertinent dis- 
closures: Otero, the ostensibly innocent contract 
labor agent and former pal of the sharper who 
swindled Uncle Asa, now seemingly anxious to find 
out where his firm we,e to build their dam; that 
same swindler, Curtis North, registered as Pente- 
cost Curtis, now with him — well, to Stacy, a keen- 
witted business man well used to the pursuit of the 
elusivf dollar, the two facts and their coincident 
application seemed positive proof of some sinister 
game afoot. Curtis, or North, as Stacy was posi- 
tive that he was, was undoubtedly well supplied with 
money. Otero was a pal of his, both were as un- 
scrupulous as two unhanged swindlers could be. and 
both here for some game far deeper and beyond 
the innocent one of Otero's securing a contract for 
fifty or one hundred Italians. 

But what was it? 

For a long half-hour Stacy thought and studied 
upon this occult mind-reading problem without suc- 
cess, and then a light came. 

" I see it, by Jove, I see it," he exclaimed, jump- 
ing up. " Curtis, or North, and maybe neither is 
his right name, is tlie baclver with money. Otero is 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 99 

the tool a„d their game is to find where we are to 
locate our dam, the, .oal a march on us by buying 
up the land and malcing us settle ' " ' ^ "^ 

Ami .hen like a flash of white light came another 
nsp ra ton and conclusion so comical that Stacy 
laughed outright I ^ 

J7 ri''°"' ^'"'' ^'- P'"'"°*t Curtis," he 
sa,d shaking with suppressed laughter, "and I'll 
make you buy Bear Ho-e Swamp of Uncle Asa and 
pay well for it, tool " 

This was so funny, and such a fine turning of 
the_tables, that he shook again with the enjo>int 

He quieted himself for hi., meeting with the com- 
m.t ee, for ,' .y were shrewd, sharp business men. 
bent on dr.v.ng the best bargain possible. Stacy 
was not asleep, and after a two-hour session, he ob- 
amed a. he hoped for in contracts duly witnessed, 
and all that remamed was to secure Rockv Glen 
B 00k valley of Sam Gates, then go ahead and build 
h.s dam, harness the giant now laughing there in 
.nnocen. glee and start the wheels that would tu n 
.bM,amlet of Oakdale into a prosperous and busy 

But first to land this despicable Curtis North 
and do It thoroughly. 



It was 



easy, too, in 



way, the door wide open. 



!fl 



ih 



i 



loo THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

the trap all set, and all that remained was to bait it. 
And now forewarned, forearmed, and " loaded for 
bear," as Uncle Asa would say, Stacy sought out 
Otero. 

"I have closed my contracts, le assured him 
with well-assumed satisfaction, i.ow finding him 
alone in his hotel office, " and have a proposition to 
make to you. The site I have de. 'ded upon in Oak- 
dale is at present a two-mile long by half-mile wide 
swamp, which contains some available timber, hem- 
lock and hackmatack. That can be cut this com- 
ing summer, but as the swamp Iz a quagmire, it's 
impossible to haul it out till winter. We shall, in 
the meantime, obtain a portible saw-mill, set " p 
below where the dam is to be, and as soon as sr 
can be hauled out, begin sawing this for our vn 
use. You can submit to me a propo-ttion for fi. y 
wood choppers to go to work by August first, and 
as many more men suitable for digging and quarry- 
ing operations, a month lai ■, where the dam is to 
be built. Thi- location, I m^/ say, is now covered 
by a fine growth of pine that must be cut first. 
Make your specification complete as to nationality 
of men to be furnished — any will do except Chi- 
nese, a foreman for each class of men must be 
included — terms and time of payment as well — 
also a bond for the good beliavior of all men em- 



'm%iiw^^im'^:smi^sm 



THE CASTLK BL'ILDKKS ,01 

ployed. Whoever obtains this contract must be- 
come responsible for all acts of thieving by men 
employed - we won't. This contract you can sub- 
mit to us within a mon , and if acceptable, \ in 
turn will give you a bond for our fulfillment of 
same." And having thus baited liis long-range 
trap, Stacy handed Otero his business card and 
shook hands with him cordially. 

And that afternoon Stacy, well satisfied with 
what he had done, took the last train for Oakdale 
station, ten miles from that hamlet. 



CHAPTER IX 



I* i, 






IT was almost sunset when the old one-horse 
carryall, with Stacy as sole passenger, reached 
the hilltop overlooking Oakdale, and now its 
peculiar isolation, a village of perhaps fifty houses 
grouped around two churches with scattering ones 
adown the borders of t'.ie two enclosing ranges of 
mountains, appeared more sequestered than ever. 
From this viewpoint he now first noticed an oval 
hill back of the village with its serried rows of white 
and brown tombstones, the gorge to right of this 
out of which came Rocky Glen brook, the V-shapcd 
vista of the valley beyond, with its winding creek 
and bordering ocean, while to left rose the bare- 
topped hill back of Uncle Asa's home, one of the 
two barricades beyond which lay Bear Hole Swamp. 
And just then, in spite of the charm of the peace- 
ful vale and visions of the city that was to arise 
there, even in spite of the piquant little school- 
ma'am, whose home-roof Stacy now saw peeping 
above its surrounding maples, it occurred to him 
that the seldom-speaking old stage driver beside him 

102 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS ,03 

could be made to assist in the game of retribution 

ne was about to play. 

"You know that big swamp back of Uncle Asa's 

don t you ? " he said, now addressing him " Well 

there .s a possibility you may sometime see that 
occupied by a big reservoir and below it a power 
house to produce electric light for Barre. If this 
comes about, and it may some day, there will be 
shops and factories built below that, alongside the 
valley, a trolley line to your railroad station, your 
vdlage will have electric light, and then you won't 
have to drive this stage any more." 

as Uncle Lev: who had been the connecting link 
between Oakdale village and station for twenty 

years. " Why, who's goin' to do it, 'n' when ? " 
1 won t say who or when," returned Stacy mys- 

tenously, "only that it may come about -i„ time 

— that IS all. 

"Wal, that openin' back o' Uncle Asa's strikes 
me ez a handy spot fer a dam," responded Uncle 
Levi, now recovering himself. "Wal, wal 'n' so 
thars one goin- up thar, eh? You s'priseme! 
VVhos goin' to dew it?" 

"I didn't say anybody was -not yet," asserted 
^tacy ,n a you-mustn't-tell tone. " I only hint this 



104 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



lm%: 






to you in confidence for I've — well, the land hasn't 
been bought yet and — you understand — keep 
quiet about it." 

And he did, so quiet that not twenty-four hours 
elapsed before every man, woman, and child in Oak- 
dale knew all about it, as Stacy intended that they 
should. 

That even-'ii^ also, or immediately after supper, 
he held another pertinent interview with Samuel 
Gates, Esq., landlord of the Oakdale House, that 
must be recorded. 

" Do you know, Sam," he said to him in the in- 
different way, typical of his business methods, when 
the chance came, "that I've — well, I've half a 
mind to make you an offer for that Rocky Glen 
Gorge you own; just to have a trout brook I could 
call my own? I wouldn't pay much for it; it's only 
a whim of mine, you know." 

" Wal, ye kin fish it, I s'pose, any time ye want 
to," drawled Sam, glancing curiously at him. 
" The brook's thar, 'n' you're welcome." 

" Yes, I know 'tis," responded Stacy in the same 
tone, "only if I owned it I could post it, and so 
keep away other fishermen. I am not particular. 
Would you be willing to lease it to me for that pur- 
pose for, say, ten years, and for how much?" 



^. 




TVK I1A..K A M..M, TO MAKK VOU AX OFFKK F„K T„ Vr 

Rocky Clks Goboe.'— p„,,f /oj. 



m 




THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



105 



returned Sam slowly, "how 



"Why, I dunno," 
much 'ud ye give? " 

" Oh, maybe ten dollars a year," admitted Stacy 
indiflferently, "just to make the matter binding. 
As you say, I know I am welcome to fish it — or 
Bear Hole Swamp brook any time I come here," 
and he laughed. 

" That's so, sure," responded Sam, also joining 
in the laugh, " but — wal, make me an offer on the 
gorge brook land, 'n' I'll think it over." 

" No, you set a price and I'll think it over. I 
am not anxious about buying it either. I just 
stopped off here for another day's fishing and shall 
leave to-morrow evening. I must get back to the 
city by the next day night." Then, and as if the 
matter were of small concern, he picked up a paper 
and began reading. 

Not so with Sam, however. He, while shrewdly 
desiring to drive good bargains, considered this 
brook gorge, now stripped of its timber, as abso- 
lutely worthless, and anything received from it as 
so much gained. 

" I dunno but I'd set a price on that 'ere brook 
gorge," he admitted finally after a long ten minutes 
of silence. " Thar's 'bout two hundred acres on't 
up to the top o' the pitch, 'n' a little scrub timber 



i^^'ti'i 



106 THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

that's wuth suthin. How'd six hundred strike 
ye? " 

" Wal," drawled Stacy in exact imitation of Sam, 
"that's pretty stiflf, all things considered. Does 
that include all the land down to the road? " 

"iJas, 'n' some back on top o' the ridges, the hull 
piece is 'most a mile long." 

For fully five minutes Stacy sat in contemplative 
silence, not to seem anxious, then spoke. 

" I'll take it, Sam," he said finally, " and as I 
shall start fishing early in the morning, let us go 
over to your village Mogul, Squire Phinney, now, 
and have a deed filled out. If I sleep on it I shall 
most likely change my mind." 

And thus did Stacy Whipple obtain possession of 
a piece of land that eventually became worth a thou- 
sand dollars for each one paid for it ! 

" One thing I must insist on," Stacy said after 
the deed was duly signed and witnessed, and he had 
given Sam six crisp one-hundred dollar bills for it 
— he had brought four times that sum with him — 
" and that is, you must keep still about this transac- 
tion. There is a big deal on foot to buy Bear Hole 
Swamp for a reservoir and power house later on; 
I shall probably have charge of the work and may 
have to board with you for a year or two. You 
will hear about it in the near future, but keep still 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 107 

or the deal may all fall through. This must abso- 
lutely be kept in strict tjiifidc ice." 

And having thus secured what he needed, and at 
the same time baited a trap for Curtis North, alias 
Pentecost Curtis, Stacy retired to a well-earned 
sleep. 

He was up early next morning, and after a pre- 
viously-ordered breakfast, betook himself to the 
home of Uncle Asa. 

And now after a week's absence and many vivid 
recollections of her sweet face and dainty form, 
first seen under the big pine, her modest self- 
possession and perfect poise, her keen wit and 
ability to cope with him on any subject, and best of 
all her tender devotion to her father — the nearer 
he came to her moss-coated old rookery of a home, 
the more he felt like a bashful schoolboy making 
first call on a sweetheart. He also realized how 
rare and charming a maid, fit to grace a palace, was 
hid in this byway nook—" Hazel Dell," as he kept 
thinking of it. 

Its utter seclusion at the end of a grass-grown 
lane out of sight of the main highway seemed sug- 
gestive of her perfect purity; as the flower-filled 
dooryard and lilac and syringa-hidden house did of 
her sweetness as he drew near it; and despite his 
years of contact with the ^^■orld, his heart thumped 



5 I 



i"h 



io8 THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

unduly when he lifted the iron knocker on the closed 
front door. 

Much to his disgust, Martha answered it, greeted 
hitr. with clumsy obsequiousness and invited him in. 

" Uncle Asa's gone down the crick," she asserted 
in answer to his inquiry, " 'n' Hazel's over to Mollie 
Bascom's for the day. She's got a cousin visitin' 
from Barre. 'n' they've a sorter lawn party goin' 
on this arternoon. 

" I s'pose they'd be glad to hev you jine 'em," 
she added, " 'n' ez ye've met the Bascom gal, it's all 
right." 

" I should be more than glad to do so," returned 
Stacy, smiling at her idea of propriety, " but my 
errand here is to see Uncle Asa. Where can, or 
how can I find him ? I had planned to go away this 
afternoon." 

" Why, ye kin take his small boat V go down the 
crick, if ye can't wait," she ansv.-ered, eyeing him 
curiously. " No, I guess he took that," she added, 
" 'n' you'll Lev to take the big dory." And Stacy,' 
departing much chagrined at this ill luck, wondered 
if this Bascom girl's cousin from Barre were of the 
masculine persuasion, felt sure that it must be, and 
was vexed accordingly. He was nothing to Hazel 
so far, as he fully realized, yet she was enough to 
him already so that if this comer from .-re were 



'Tia^^iM^ms^'mm 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



109 



a fellow, he wished that he 



would keep away from 



Oakdale. Oakdale swains were evidently not to be 
feared, but a young man from Barre, where Hazel 
had spent a winter in social gaiety, might prove a 
dangerous rival. 

Uncle Asa's big dory was soon found to be out of 
water beside his small wharf. Stacy had a muddy 
experience in launching it under the hot sun, and 
by the time he started down stream on the last of 
the tide, his temper and raiment were both badly 
frayed. 

And meantime the imagined face of the fellow 
from Barre kept intruding! 

He reached the open water of the cove after two 
hours of misery, pulled up to the little old wharf, 
and soon, to his joy, saw Uncle Asa doubled over 
and digging clams on the bare flats outside. 

" I'm glad to see ye, mighty glad," that worthy 
exclaimed, looking up as Stacy drew near and 
smiling benignly, "but what fetched ye back so 
soon, good news ? " 

" Yes, decidedly so for you if all goes as I plan," 
answered Stacy positively. "Come up to where 
the table is and I'll tell you the story." 

Once seated there in shade more than consoling 
to Stacy, with the cooling sea breeze blowing in, he 
began his story, fully resolved to keep nothing back 



I 



i 



': il 



no THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

from Uncle Asa, but to trust him fully, as he now 
did. He started at the beginning, too; telling of 
his mission to Oakdale. the reason for it, and what 
he had decided upon, next of his return to Barrc 
witli the outcome of the contract with that city's 
committee, and, most pertinent of all. of his meet- 
ing with Pentecost Curtis and the latter's tool, 
Otero, and of his almost certainty of the game they 
intended to play, with explanation of the tr-p set 
for them. And the face of Uncle Asa was a study 
while this recital was in progress, for his mouth 
was wide open, now and then he gasped for breath 
and when Stacy paused, he jumped up, yelled 
"Hooray, Good Lord, hooray!" in tones that 
eclioed across the wide cove, then grabbed both of 
Stacy's hands in his, and nearly pulled Stacy's arms 
out of their sockets. 

" I'd kiss ye if ye wuz a woman. I swar I wjuld ! " 
he next exclaitned, now dancing up and down. 
" Rut I can't believe all you're tellin' I Good Lord, 
it's too good to be true! Ef it turns out so. it's 
Kingdom-Come fer me, sure's a gunl 'N' Hazel, 
say Hazel — " And overcome by the ecstasy of his 
joy Uncle Asa choked, sat down and covered his 
face with muddy hands while he shook with sup- 
pressed emotion. 

And it was many moons ere Stacy forgot even 



THE CASTLF. BUILDERS 1 1 1 

one iota of that miiisling of humor and patlios in 
Uncle Asa's words. 

" We must \>e alow and cautious in playing this 
game," Stacy now assured him in business tone. 
" We are up against two shaipcrs. keen as the devil, 
and as occult. This Otero, the tool, will cotne here 

in the near future — Curtis North never will 

Otero will make a lot of sly inquiries, then call 
on you, make a few more, and mnybe go away to 
consult with his backer and prime mover in this 
game. He will appear again and either make you 
a flat offer at a nominal figure for Bear Hole 
Swamp or try to secure an option on it. And here 
is where you come in ! You must now assert tliat 
you already have an offer for the property by par- 
ties whose names, location, or intentions you have 
no knowledge of. Be as cocky and independent as 
a well-fed bulldog, and say positively you won't 
set any price on the swamp. Otero will then begin 
to bid up, and how high he will go all depends on 
your nerve, self-possession, and strength of assur- 
ance that you won't accept any offer. When he 
gets up to, say, six or seven thousand dollars, then 
begin to weaken in your refusals, and finally admit 
that for cash down — not even a certified check — 
you will accept an even ten thousand dollars for 
your property. He will then offer you a split price. 



m 



I 





ij 




! 
1 


1 


i 
j 

• 



r^s*"" 



113 THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

perhaps eight, perhaps nine thousand. You must 
next come the scornful act and s.iy, ' Before I dis- 
cuss this matter further, show me the coin.' He 
may go away again, he may not, most likely he will 
have the cash with him, but — get hold of the 
money before you give him even a scrap of paper, 
for you arc dealing with a keen-witted thief. And 
once you get the money, h^de it where no other 
human being can find it; then drive over to Barre 
— don't go by rail — and deposit your money in 
the best bank." 

" Why, this feller must be a reg'lar highway- 
man!" gasped Uncle Asa after this elaborate plan 
of action. " You figger he'd hold me up 'tween 
here 'n' Barre I " 

" He would, as sure's you're born. ■'- disgui'c of 
course," responded Stacy, smiling at Uncle Asa's 
concern, and then he related what he had seen this 
Otero doing in the mining-camp gambling den. 
" Both of those fellows are despicable thieves," he 
added. " and would not hesitate at murder if need 
be. 

" I am going to Nevada in a week or two " he 
continued, " and shall look this Rawhide swindle 
up, and perhaps obtain some evidence to give these 
sharpers a good scare anyhow. Enough to keep 



mapped 



THE r\STLli BUILDERS n., 

them away from this vicinity at least. They are 
too cunning to be caught red-handed and landed in 
jail, I'm sure." 

And now after this plan of action 
out, Uncle Asa began to ponder. 

" I wish you wuz goin' ter be here 'n' do this 
business," he ejaculated with a sigh after a long 
pause. "It's askin' a good deal, Mr. Whipple, 
you've already done more fer me 'n' any man ever 
did, but — I don't feel I'm smart 'nuff to dicker 
with sich a dern scamp. 'N' it's Hazel's money, 
too, if I get it back out o' that wuthless swamp, 'n' 

— Good Lord, the chance seems like the hull o' my 
life!" 

"I wish I could. Uncle Asa," Stacy returned 
earnestly, " and I assure you that I'd gladly do it if 
possible. I'd — I'd go a long way to do you a 
good turn, and repeat the trip for Hazel. She is 

— is the sweetest little lady I ever saw, bless her 
big eyes." 

Then Uncle Asa looked up at Stacy curiously. 
" Say, Mr. Whipple," he queried, " kin I tell Hazel 
now what you've done, 'n' are doin' ? " 

" No, positively no," vehemently, " until the af- 
fair is all over and this swindler landed or not! 
Then you may." 



tiH:^. 



"4 THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

And just now he wished more than for anything 
else ,n his life before, that if all worked out as 
^e hoped, he might be an unobserved witness of 
Hazels face, when her father informed her of the 
outcome. 



|;!|f' 



CHAPTER X 

MANY of us do kindly acts, a few do 
unselfish ones, but not one in a million 
ever does a heroic one without hope of 
reward. 

In Stacy's case, what he had so far done was 
solely from good will and wish to help a kindly old 
man who had, metaphorically speaking, opened his 
arms to him on sight. Just an ebullition of gen- 
erosity in the heart of a man grown cynical and 
hard by contact with a heartless and selfish world. 
His own father — much the same kind of man, as 
Stacy recalled him — also played a part in this 
generous impulse, and woven into it, also, was 
Hazel's face. Stacy desired no reward from her 
except the indirect one of repaying her coolness — 
almost scorn — by an act of unselfish interest in her 
father's welfare. He also had a lurking suspicion 
of the real cause of her chilly demeanor; that she 
distrusted him or imagined his real errand here was 
a sinister one, and his interest in her father similar 
to that of the swindler, North, and finally to in- 
veigle him into some financial scheme. There must 
lis 



$' i 






Ul 



1 16 THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

be some reason for her apparent distrust; this 
seemed tlie most plausible one. 

And now after this heart-to-heart exchange with 
Uncle Asa, in the tiny grove overlooking that lone 
sea beach, it occurred to Stacy that time was flying, 
and if he caught the late afternoon train it was time 
to be starting. 

" I've got to catch the six-thirty train west," he 
now said to Uncle Asa, consulting his watch, " and 
must be going. I've told you all I can regarding 
this plan of mine, and all I can add is. Keep quiet, 
don't confide a word of it — not even to Hazel, and 
when this Otero shows up — as I am sure he will 
— drive a good bargain with him." 

" It's a case «' ' Do unto the other feller ez he'd 
do unto you, only do it fust,' I cal'Iate," returned 
Uncle Asa, chuckling. " Only I wisht you was the 
one to do it. You've fergot more'n I ever knew 
'bout handlin' sich swindlers. 

" We must hev suthin to eat 'fore we start back " 
he continued, glancing at the sun. " I've got a 
coffee pot 'n' briler in my boat, 'n' a little lunch 
1 11 jist make some cofifee 'n' brile a couple o' lobs 
'n' then I'll pull ye up the crick in my small boat' 
I wish ye cud stop over 'nother night with us' " he 
added pleadingly. "I'd be proud to hev ye 'n' 
Hazel -say, Mr, Whipple, can't I jist gin 'her a 



■#:'-T^:ill^fea' 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 117 

hint o' what's in the wind so she kin 'preciate ye 
ez she ought? That gal's clus-mouthed, 'n' got 
more sense in a minnit than I've got in a month, if 
she is my darter." 

" No, I thank you for the invitation, Uncle Asa," 
responded Stacy earnestly, " but you must not con- 
fide my real errand here to her. Positively, you 
must not now." Then he — reading Uncle Asa's 
wish and thoughts as easily as a child's — added 
another heart-confidence that made the old man 
gasp. 

" Uncle Asa," he said slowly and as uttering a 
prayer, " I have said to myself for many years — 
I am thirty now — that I would never marry, and 
yet during the ten days since I first saw your daugh- 
ter u e the pine tree, and from my reading of 
her m d character, if she were to give me the 

slightesc encouragement now, I just couldn't help 
asking her to become my wife. She won't, how- 
ever. She either doesn't like me, or distrusts me, 
and that is my inmost reason for refusing to let 
you confide my errand here to her. It would make 
her feel obligated to me, and I wouldn't accept even 
a smile from her won that way. Now you have my 
measure ! " 

Then once more Uncle Asa extended his hand, 
swallowed a lump, and turned his face away. 



:^5<!*»;'= '•:*.$' 



ii8 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



i! 



a.-; 




"Mr. Whipple," he answered with a tremor, 
"you've teched my heart ez nothin' ever teched it 
since my wife died. Ef I kin bring things 'bout ez 
I wish 'em, it'll all come out right in the end. 
Hazel j,st can't help trustin' ye, 'n' a good deal 
more wlien she knov.s what I know 'bout ye. 
Leave it to me. leave it to me, 'n' take keer o' yer- 
self while ye're away." 

And Stacy felt as if he had already offered his 
hand and heart to this rare maiden and was await- 
iiig lier answer. 

But he would not have told her of what he hoped 
to do now, even if that withholding were to part 
them forever, for that was his pride and way It 
must be himself she wanted, for himself alone, and 
not as compensation for any tavor shown her 
father. 

" We musi hurry about this dinner matter," he 
now said, again consulting his watch. "It's half- 
past twelve; it will take us over an hour to pull up 
the creek even with the tide, the stage leaves at four- 
thirty, and there you are! " 

" I kin pull up in less'n 'n hour," asserted Uncle 
Asa confidently. "I will, anyhow, V then I'll 
hitch up 'n' take ye to t.ie depot myself. My boss 
km go faster'n Uncle Levies old crowbait " 

The broiled lobsters and coffee were speedily 



'^sjurwK'riw^ w 



THE CASTLli BUILDERS 119 

made ready by Uncle Asa. He cooked three of 
those delicious crustaceans lest his honored guest 
would not find one enough, melted butter in a tin 
cup, and served Stacy as if he were a titled person- 
age. Once started. Uncle Asa swung the oars with 
long, vigorous strokes while S'acy steered, the sea 
breeze followed them cool, crisp, and refreshing, 
scores of bobolinks rose from the marsh on either 
hand, caroling their wondrously sweet song, and 
somehow, just now, it seemed to find an echo in 
Stacy's heart. 

When the boathouse was reached Stacy suggested 
that he walk on to the hotel, pay his bill, and await 
Uncle Asa there, and did so. 

And now arriving at the village, he was the ob- 
server of a scene that effectually ended the bobo- 
Hnk-song mood within him, and thrust a tiny dagger 
into his heart. He knew that Hazel was spending 
the day with one of her girl chums. He had no 
expectation of seeing her, no intention, certainly, of 
spying upon her; yet now, passing close to a big 
brown shrubbery-surrounded house near the village, 
there in a shaded hammock sat Miss Hazel picking 
at her banjo, and in the opposite end a sprucely 
dressed young man ! 

One instant's flash of her big brown eyes came 
to Stacy with a cool little nod. He bowed, raised 



rL='^ 



15 il 
Is I. 




120 THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

his hat courteously, glanced just once at -he half- 
dozen other young folk grouped about and strode 
on feeling as if all the world were awry. 

And tiiat was the last time that he saw Miss 
Hazel for many months. 

The Old Guard, with two additions, were lined 
up m the hotel piazza chairs when Stacy reached it 
Sam m their midst, and from their curious glances 
and animated faces it was evident that some un- 
usual happening had disturbed their minds. Sam 
greeted Stacy witli unusual deference; Stacy ex- 
plamed to him later in the office that Uncle Asa had 
been unable to take him fishing as he had hoped, 
paid his bill, and to protect himself from a quizzing 
from Sam, remained in his room until he saw Uncle 
Asa nearing the hotel, then descended, shook hands 
with Ssm and rode away with Uncle Asa 

And never before since that Old Guard made 
bam s piazza their summer rendezvous or gathered 
around his open Franklin stove in winter, had a 
visitor come and gone who had excited them as 
much as Stacy had, or whom they so longed to 
question ! ^ 

" Thar's the devil 'n' Tom Walker to pay " as- 
serted Sam the moment Stacy rode away, " 'n' 
Uncle Asa's in the game, I cal'late. Fust, that feller 
comes here 'n' ketches on with him, they go fishin' 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 121 

go down the crick with Hazel 'n' a couple o' other 
gals fer a clam-boil, he calls thar a few times, goes 
off, comes back, tells Uncle Levi, Bear Hole Swamp's 
goin' to be turned into a big reservoir some day, 
shops put up. 'n' doin's o' all sorts. Then he comes 
back like he dropped outen the clouds, tells me he 
wants Rocky Glen brook fer a trout brook o' his 
own, pays me six hundred cold plunks fer it like 
they war waste paper, 'n' goes off mum ez a clam. 
Either thar's a nigger in the woodpile, or that chap's 
crazy ez a loon." 

For two hours, also, or until supper time, this 
epitome of Stacy's actions formed the Old Guard's 
sole topic of converse, with varying opinions as to 
whether he were a sane millionaire, or a lunatic 
with money to burn — the latter predominating. 

Arriving at Oakdale depot — an isolated spot 
with woods all about and the only house in sight 
that of the station agent — Stacy, to enjoy his cigar 
and privacy with Uncle Asa, asked that they await 
the train in their carryall near the station; and here 
he once more went over the manner and method by 
which Uncle Asa was to do his part in forcing 
restitution of his money by sale of a worthless 
swamp to Otero, pal and tool of Curtis North. 

" You must be sly, ' devilish sly,' Uncle Asa," 
Stacy cautioned him, " for you will be dealing with 



1 



i4/t*:^ 



122 THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

a fellow that I've no doubt has conimiited ever 
crime in the calendar and escaped the law so tar. 
The o^e point most effective will be your convincing 
him it's your sense of honor that keeps you from ac- 
cepting any offer — as he has no honor, he will not 
easily believe you have — and convincing him of 
this will be the turning point in making him believe 
that he is safe in buying this property. He will 
hear that I have bought the Rocky Glen gorge — 
I dare not leave that uncovered — only — and I 
have paved the way for it — he will hear all about 
the big deal on hand to buy Bear Hole Swamp 
before he calls on you, and your positive refusal to 
sell until after a long parley, and big price offered, 
will be the convincing proof that he is buying what 
we want for a reservoir." 

" It's a cut-throat game, 'n' 1 ain't used to 'em," 
declared Uncle Asa, " but I'll do the best I kin. 
I dunno's it's quite right to take more'n the four 
thousand this North skinned me outen, though. 
It don't seem so." 

"But you've actually got to sell Bear Hole 
Swamp," returned Stacy positively. "It will be 
worth double ten thousand dollars as soon as our 
power starts its wheels, and then you deserve some 
return for the distress of mind you have suffered. 
Don't have any compunctions of conscience, Uncle 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 123 

Asa. The money tliis swindler will put in was 
practically stolen by him, some of it actually, no 
doubt, so rest easy in your mind." 

When tlic train was lieard coming, Uncle Asa 
jumpet o.it hurriedly, hitched his horse, grasped 
Stacy's suit-case and led the way to the station 
platform. 

•' Good-bye, 'n' God bless ye, Mr. Whipple, God 
bless ye," he said, when the final moment of parting 
came; " 'n' say, I'd give five years o' my life, 'n' 
I hain't many left, to tell Hazel now so she — she 
could be thinkin' ez I do 'bout ye. Mebbe ye'll 
write me from the West, 'n' I kin hev Hazel answe-. 
My writin's a good deal like crow-tracks in the 
mud." 

And once away, it dawned on Stacy that this last 
proposal was an occult one to make Hazel realize 
tliat he was the honorable man Uncle Asa believed 
him to bt - also a possible hope of something be- 
yond of mutual benefit. 

Another conclusion also came to him as the train 
sped on, which was that if his trap caught this 
swindler and he found what he felt sure of finding 
in Rawhide, he would set another, eitlier to laml 
him in jail, or make him give up the deed of Uncle 
Asa's swamp; all of which must be accepted as 
further proof of Stacy's penchant for air ca?tles. 



t i 



HR 



,Ji^'~' 1 



B?T 



kyy* 



"Wi 



CHAPTER XI 

''ELL, old man, what success?" ques- 
tioned Bert Colby, Stacy's genial, 
. . hustling partner, when he entered 

their office thirty-six hours later and after the usual 
handshake. "Did you land Barre all right?" 

" Ves, got contracts all signed and witnessed and 
went back to Oakdale . nd bought the best dam site 
the,. 5or six hundred," returned Stacy i.rscly 
" and had a heap of fun besides. Say, my boy "' 
he added smiling, " Oakdale's a dream of a spot for 
trout fishing, but the hotel would give you dyspepsia, 
with a table maid that chews gum while serving" 

" How about your Uncle Reuben, the nice old 
farmer who took you fishing, and his peach of a 
g.rl?" smiled Bert. "I guess she's the one who 
added charm to the brooks. Did she ? " _ 
_^ ''No, she doesn't chew gum," interrupted Stacy 
She s the finest and keenest country girl I ever 
saw. 

"Stung, my boy, stung, good and plenty," 
laughed Bert. " and by the way. here's the layout of 

J24 



Jb. 



i 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 125 

the gold brick your Uncle Rube bought," and he 
handed Stacy a long official envelope. 

Stacy glanced at its corner caption, " Carson City 
Bureau of Mining Statistics," then drew forth its 
missive. 

Briefly stated, it gave the information that the 
Rawhide Gold Mining and Reduction Company had 
been duly organized under the laws of Nevada; 
capital two hundred thousand dollars, divided into 
twenty thousand shares, par value ten dollars ; Presi- 
dent Curtis North, Secretary and Treasurer Leon 
Otero, both of Rawhide; directors, these two with 
three other names given, from Deadwood, Colorado. 
A footnote added was to the eflFect that owing to 
failure to give annual report and non-payment of 
State tax, the said charter had been adjudged as 
forfeited. 

For fully five minutes Stacy studied this plain 
statement of facts, stroking his brown, well-kept 
mustache meanwhile — an unusual ace for him — 
then ejaculated, "No chance to catch him in 
Nevada, anyhow." 

"Catch whom?" queried his partner curiously. 

" Have you added the sleuthing business to ours? " 

" No," replied Stacy, " but I've set out to catch 

one slick swindler to help Uncle Asa out of a hole." 



iikM*m 



126 THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

Then Colby — for they were in the seclusion of 
their pnvate office — exploded in a burst of 
laughter I 

'■ Well, you are worse than stung," he excUimi-J. 
subsiding, "you are bit, scooped, done f. r, landed 
and all within ten days! You called the turni 
Uncle Kube's daughter must be a winner! But 
what the devil do you want to chase a bunco man 
out to Nevada for? Does she make that a pro- 
vision?" 

" No, she hasn't even grown to believe I am 
honest yet," returne.1 Stary soberly. " Tl'inks I 
came to Oakdale to sell her father more mine stock, 
or on some swindling game. There is a more dan- 
gerous snake in the grass in this case, than the one 
that charmed Mother Eve." 

Then Stacy gave his partner, who was like a 
brother to him, a full and explicit account of his 
v.sit to Oakdale and Barre, his meeting with Curtis 
-\orth and Otero, with an exposure of their sup- 
posed plot, and a description of the trap he had set 
for them. Hazel, of course, came in as a side light 
m this drama -for she was too much in Stacy's 
mmd to be omitted -and her charm, keen wit. and 
hhal ..evotion were touched upon by him. " It's to 
save her poor little heritage and comfort her father 



^^h 



THK CASTLE BUILDERS 



1-27 



— one of Nature's noblemen — that I've taken a 
hand in this game," Stacy then explained. " She 
is a rare girl, and while I'm not in love with her 
yet, the only way I'll escaiie that malady is to keep 
away from Oakdale. A month there and I'd be a 
goner ! " 

" Well then, hike to Oakdale at once, for you 
might easily do a bigger fool thing," asserted Colby 
in rcspcjnse — for he had a charming wife, home, 
and two children. " In fact, as there are scores 
of La Rosa Carmens abroad in the land, if this 
country lass is half what you describe, I'll blow a 
cool five hundred on a wedding present for you two, 
and call it money wi M spent." 

"Thanks, old man," returned Stacy soberly, 
"you may have the chance if I am obliged to super- 
intend our work in Oakdale. And now 'low alinut 
my trip West you wrote me about ? \\ hat's to be 
done ? " 

"Why, first, you must see two parties in New 
York, buying agents who want some of our Number 
One Compressed Air Drillers, about a hundred I 
expect, then you will have to go to Nevada and on 
to Seattle to see mine owners and take measure- 
ments. It's going to delay our Oakdale w ,rk some, 
but can't help it. This Drill order has too much pie 



! 1 



128 THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

m it to put oflf, and I can't leave here, anyhow." 
And so Stacy once more found himself in business 
harness after the charm of Oakdale. 

That evening also, in the cozy seclusion of his 
own house and sitting-room, and just for fun, he 
gave his aunt a " big, big jolly," as he would put it. 
"Aunt Carrie," he said soberly, when the chance 
came, "you have for many years advised that the 
proper thing for me to do was to get married and 
give you a companion to help watch and take care 
of your pets, also me. Well, I found the perfect 
one ten days ago, a country lass who wears a calico 
sunbonnet, can milk the cows, I imagine, and makes 
the most delightful shortcake that ever melted in a 
man's mouth. She also plays the banjo and sings 
coon songs like an artist. How would it strike you 
if I brought her here in September? " 

"Mercy!" gasped his aunt as visions of a 
farmer's freckled daughter who said " haow " and 
" Yew don't tell ! " flashed into her mind. " Do you 
mean it, Stacy, do you? Why 1-1 never sup- 
posed such a girl would suit you? " 
Then Stacy laughed heartily. 
" I didn't say she suited me exactly," he returned 
still chuckling, "but you can dress her up so the 
tater bugs won't chase her any more, I think she 
can get her feet into number seven shoes — eights 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 129 

anyhow — you can check her propensity to chew 
gum during divine service and exclaim 'Land's 
sake ! ' and ' Laws-a-massy ! ' too often in company, 
and so get along with her. I am doing this to please 
you, Aunt Carrie." 

Then his aunt eyed him curiously, for she was not 
as credulous as may be imagined. "I know you 
are joking," she said, smiling benignly (like Uncle 
Asa, as Stacy thought), " but I hope you will marry, 
and I know a country giri will make you a good 
wife. They are always good and sensible. You 
know what I think of city girls — vain and 
frivolous, if not fast." 

Then, and to ease the mind of this most excellent 
woman — country born — who had been practically 
a mother to him for eighteen years, Stacy gave her 
a truthful description of Hazel and her charms. 
And it is needless to add that his aunt exclaimed 
over this possible outcome as all country mothers 
would. 

Another development, more pertinent to this nar- 
rative than its love interest came to Stacy during 
the week that now elapsed before he left Albion 
again, that must be related. There was in his office 
a young man about his age, a boyhood schoolmate 
in the way-back town Stacy came from, and a 
sensible, keen-witted fellow, whom he had taken in 



i ■ 

n 



130 THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

hand years before, by the name of Isaac Williams 
He had been observant, anxious to learn, was a good 
penman, and was now head bookkeeper for the firm • 
also devoted to Stacy personally as was natural. 

" I overheard something last night in a cafe, Mr 
Whipple," he said to him early one morning (the 
fourth smce his return from Oakdale) "that I 
think you ought to know." As Colby had not ar- 
rived and this might be confidential, Stacy at once 
invited "Ike," as he was called, into the private 
office, and told him to go ahead. 

"I was at the show last night — Park Square 
Theater," continued Ike, " with a girl I take out 
occasionally, and afterwards took her to the Jap 
Garden's cafe for lunch. It's a nice, cozy one, with 
music, and little stalls with paper partitions and 
bamboo curtains — you know the place — and it's 
all right. Well, as we were going in I noticed a 
couple in the stall next to the one we took, and the 
fellow, a slick little Spanish-looking sort of a chap 
was just giving his order to the waiter, so the cur- 
tain was up, and the lady with him was that Miss 
Carmen I know you used to take to theaters occa- 
sionally. Well, we hadn't been seated five minutes 
— I'd just given my order— when I overheard your 
name mentioned by this Miss Carmen, and I began 
tohstea She was talking low and mysterious I 



Ifii ti 

'Ml 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



131 



couldn't catch all that was said, but the point of 
it was this chap had just come from Barre where he 
had gone to work some scheme or upset your plans 
and was sure of doing it. She admitted, too, that 
she was next to one of the committee there also, 
or he had been here to see her and told her what 
was afoot. I judged by one admission of hers that 
she was pretty intimate with this Barre chap or 
had some hold on him. I also heard her say to 
this fellow, ' Now remember, I am to have a mate 
to the diamond bracelet from you when the trick is 
done — no go-back, or I'll peach,' and he said, ' My 
dear, it ees promised, I haf kept my vord and I 
vill.' I heard some love talk mixed in later, and 
kissing with it. He is to take her to the Park 
Square to-night also. The game they had or were 
putting up is one you best know, I thought." 

"Most certainly," returned Stacy, "and I thank 
you for your fidelity. Now I want you to go with 
me to the Park Square to-night. We will keep 
apart and watch out. I think I know who the fellow 
is, but it's best that we are not seen together." Then 
the bookkeeper returned to his duties, and Stacy 
, to a mental kicking of himself for sundry and divers 
reasons. 

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,' " he 
muttered, pulling at his mustache again, " and she 



m 

1' 



132 THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

has got it in for mel And to think I once thought 
her so glorious, and was on the point of proposing! 
I ought to have her picture framed as Sam did the 
certificate, to prove how many kinds of damn fool 
I was I And she nothing but a despicable adventur- 
ess, and worse ! " Then he arose and began to pace 
the office while he digested this new complication 
and how to use it. He had at first only meant to 
rescue Uncle Asa's money with good interest — 
now he was so angry that he determined to jail 
both these swindlers, cost what it might. 

" I wonder if I couldn't get you sent up for a 
year or two, Miss La Rosa Carmen, just for luck," 
he now soliloquized, "if I put a detective on your 
trail?" Then better sense came to him. "No, 
you idiot," he asserted, thinking of himself, " better 
by far go hug a busy buzz saw than <o try games on 
a woman like her!" 

He kept both his own cogitations and the book- 
keeper's disclosure from his partner, who came in 
later, for obvious reasons, and that evening he and 
Ike met early and stationed themselves for a sly 
observance of the theater's arriving patrons from 
outside its entrance. Stacy was in due time re- 
warded, for just before curtain time a carriage 
halted in front of the theater, Jehu opened its door 
obsequiously, out stepped Otero in evening dress. 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 133 

top coat, crush hat, and holding a big bouquet, and 
after him "La Rosa Carmen," resplendent with 
many diamonds and the very latest in modish rai- 
ment. 

Stacy had not seen her for four years or cared 
to for six; did not even know whether she had been 
in the city all that time or not — she was merely an 
episode in his past life that he wished to forget — 
yet now as she swept by within ten feet of where 
he stood in shadow, she was an undeniably hand- 
some woman, not looking a year older since seen 
by him, in fact bewitchingly beautiful. 

" She's a Juno in form and face, a Circe at heart, 
with soul of a she-devil," he said to himself now, 
" yet scores of men will pursue and pay any price 
for her Judas kisses — damn her ! " which profane 
sneer can easily be excused, or should be. 

" I should think she'd feel ashamed to be seen 
with that insignificant little pup," he added, now 
turning to find Ike, " but what do they care so long 
as the price is paid ? Another diamond bracelet to 
do me, eh ? Well, we will see I ' Whoever laughs 
last, laughs longest,' Bert says." 

He had seen all he wanted and obtained all he 
wanted, namely, confirmation of who was with her 
in the cafe, and not wishing to be seen by this 
woman, when Ike was found the two hurried away. 



134 THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

"Come, Ike. my ooy," Stacy now said in com- 
radeship tone, and grasping his arm, " let's you and 
I have a drink in memory of boyhood days, then 
I'll tell you something, for I'm sure I can trust you. 
Just a long claret lemonade up in one corner of the 
Alhambra roof garden." 

And here and thus ensconced in cool seclusion 
Stacy did tell him something, which was the history 
of his heart affair with La Rosa Carmen and its 
denouement in her obtaining inside information of 
Barre's intentions, then selling it to this probable 
paramour, Otero, for one diamond bracelet, with 
some of the spoils probably, and the mate to that for 
later pay. He also told of the trap he had set. 

" Colby knows about Carmen," he admitted in 
conclusion, "but he doesn't know what I've told 
you, that she never was anything to me especially 
for I believed her a good girl, while she — well, she 
really meant to marry me, so set out to play the in- 
nocent game of course. I just had to tell someone 
the facts to take the taste of her out of my mouth 
Colby doesn't, or I don't want him to know of the 
game she has set up — he has worries enough — so 
you mustn't tell him. Keep still about all I've said. 
I may want to send you to Oakdale or to New York 
later on to play spy on this Curtis North. I intend 
to land him in jail if I can." Then, after another 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



135 



of the cooling mixtures absorbed through straws, 
the two shook hands, and Stacy went home. 

Next day, or the one before he was to leave 
Albion, a better mood came, for Hazel's face was in 
it, and in his heart as well. He also wondered what 
gift or token of it he could now send her — the 
usual way of a man in love. This, however, he had 
hard work to determine. Books and flowers were 
the only things admissible according to his calendar, 
the latter of course out of the question, so he be- 
took himself to a bookstore. Six de luxe copies 
of the best poets with as many more of current fic- 
tion were here selected, then Stacy thought of her 
auto-harp and banjo and hastened away to a music 
dealer's, with the result that enough music for those 
two instruments to last her two years, together with 
tlie books, was soon on its way to Miss Hazel 
Webster, Oakdale. 

Stacy didn't even enclose his card — just sent the 
things and let her guess from whom they came. 

And now having done so much to assuage his wee 
little heart hunger for this " rare and radiant maiden 
named " — Hazel, the six weeks' jaunt and twice 
across this continent now seemed an interminably 
long time to be away. 



■' - 



CHAPTER XII 

WITH the feeling that he must keep his 
coat buttoned tightly to protect his 
watch and pocketbook, and a firm hold 
of his suit-case — an impression that always came 
the moment he set foot in New York -Stacy 
pushed and elbowed his way through tl , Grand 
Central Depot, took a carriage to the Holland 
House, secured a room, and proceeded at once to 
Number 441 West Twenty-third Street. He found 
It a brownstone front and dingy brick lodging house 
m the Tenderloin borders with " Rooms to let " card 
in one window. 

••_ Is Mr. Leon Otero in? " he asked of the mulatto 
maid who answered his ring. 
I' No, sah," she returned, eyeitig him sharply. 
" Can you tell me where I can find him.? " Stacy 
next inquired suavely. " It's a matter of important 
business." 

"No, sah; Ah dunno, sah," came from her of 
brick-color face. " He done been gone away mos' 
free weeks now, sah." 

"Is Mr. Curtis rooming here?" Stacy 
136 



next 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 137 

hazarded. Then the maid flashed him another 
snaky look from her black eyes. 

" He don't lib here," she admitted hesitatingly, 
"you kin find him at his office. Ah 'spect." 

" Well, I wish to find either Mr. Otero or him," 
asserted Stacy anxiously, "on a matter of urgent 
business. Where is the office of Mr. Curtis? " 

" In de Mills Building on Wall Street," she hesi- 
tated. " Ah doan 'member de number, sah. What 
am youah name, sah ? " 

" My name's Williams," returned Stacy briskly, 
" and I wanted to see Mr. Otero about hiring some 
men of him. I will try to see Mr. Curtis. Good 
morning." And having obtained more information 
than he expected, he bowed politely and turned 
away. 

"Office on Wall Street, eh, you whiskered 
scoundrel ! " he muttered when well away from this 
house. "So it's big game you are still after! 
Wonder if the office of the Rawhide Mine is 
there ? " 

He hurried up the street, almost ran up the 
nearest elevated railway stairs, caught a down-town 
train, and was soon at the Mills sky-scraper, 
Number 35 Wall Street. 

Here and glancing over its office list, " Room 210, 
Floor 22, Curtis & Company," soon rewarded him. 



«38 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



Then he hesitated, for he had no wish to meet this 
arch-villain now, in fact that was the very thing 
he did not want to do yet. It was possible to do a 
little more sleuthing, howcer, so he caught an ex- 
press elevator car and was shot up to Floor Twenty- 
two in a jiffy. Here, with hands in pockets like a 
farmer, he strolled leisurely down the corridor. 
Room 210 was easily found, Stacy glanced up and 
down the corridor, saw no one was observing him, 
then sidled up to the door upon the ground glass 
panel of which was lettered, " Curtis & Company. 
Mining Stocks and Investment Securities," and 
listened. No sound came from within, so he next 
turned the door knob cautiously and found the door 
locked. 

" So the bird's away," he muttered, now strolling 
on, " and all the better." He kept on, s' o, around 
three divisions of this corridor until he ,v a brass- 
buttoned young Irishman with appear -ice of jani- 
torship, and him he accosted. 

" Do you know a man namcr' Curtis — big fel- 
low, red face, white side-whiskers, dealer in mine 
stocks, on this floor ? " he queried. 

*' Yis, sor; Koom Two-ten, jist around two cor- 
ners, or," came the direct answer from Pat. 

" 1 tried tliat door," returned Stacy, " but nobody 
in. How long since you have seen Mr. Curtis?" 



I' i 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 139 

"I can't say, sor; a wake or two I'm thinkin'. 
He don't be here much, sor." And having thus lo- 
cated those two slick schemers, Stacy left the build- 
ing. His business in the city consumed three days, 
each evening of which was passed at some theater, 
and somehow every moment of those many hours 
of hurrying hither and yon Stacy's eyes were con- 
tinually on watch for the conspicuous face of Cur- 
tis. He looked carefully around or over theater 
audiences for this peculiar face; also, and mean- 
time, in spite of important business matters to be 
discussed and keen men to be bargained with, he 
kept wondering whether or not, just now, this fel- 
low, Otero, was playing gallant to the Carmen siren 
or had gone to Oakdale. He was glad when the 
time came for leaving New York also; that city 
always oppressed him with a vague sense of un- 
easiness ; and when once on board a through West- 
ern train of all Pullmans it seemed as if he were 
escaping from an enemy's country. 

And now with three days and nights of luxurious 
ease ahead, two late novels in his suit-case, two 
boxes of his favorite cigars, also, and time to think ; 
he began a more coherent plan or outline of Iiow to 
circumvent these two conspirators. I. would de- 
pend a good deal upon what he learned in Rawliide, 
however, for it was evident Curtis North had ob- 



I 






140 THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

literated himself as much as possible and was now 
the well-to-do semi-retired business man, Pentecost 
Curtis, fat and prosperous, with a Wall Street office 
scarcely used except for an address. He didn't live 
on Twenty-third Street, not he I That was good 
enough for Otero, his pal, or maybe as a spare bur- 
row wherein to hide in case of necessity. Stacy's 
reception by Ih. .nulatto maid of Number 441 now 
also seemed in line with his surmises, and her curi- 
ous reticence and brusque demand for his name to 
be evidence that she had been duly cautioned. It 
was probable, also, that Curtis North had severed 
all connection with his Rawhide mine, would act vir- 
tuously indignant if even called its former president, 
and as Pentecost Curtis would disclaim all knowl- 
edge of that swindle. And now with so much of this 
web of trickery and assumed name thought out, it 
occurred to Stacy — the skeptic, air-castle builder, 
and shrewd business man combined — that in this 
obliteration of a scamp from his former rascalities 
was an opening to give that arch-villain at least a 
severe scare. Then, and following this conclusion, 
came the possibility of another bold stroke. In case 
Uncle Asa sold Bear Hole Swamp to Otero, con- 
federate of Curtis North, alias P. Curtis, of forcing 
this swindler to give up the deed or face legal con- 
sequences. 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



141 



" By Jove, I'll do it if I can," Stacy exclaimrd, 
now springing to his feet in his private cor ■.,. 
ment of the on-rushing train; and then a« liiC 
comical side n! his plot and plan occurred to him, 
he laughed long and heartily. 

" I wonder what Uncle Asa will say if I do," he 
added, subsiding, " and Hazel I Also Sam, who 
thought he had so good a joke on me? If I do, I'll 
buy that certificate of him as a souvenir! " 

Then this builder of air-castles leaped back to 
Maple Dell in thought and to the cool yet sweet 
and bewitching maid who dwelt there. He also 
wondered what slie would say or think of his gift 
of books and music, and how it was that she was so 
distrustful of him on sight? He was now satisfied 
that her coolness was all due to her imagining him 
there to inveigle her confiding father, and this, per- 
haps, more than all else, now inspired him to, as he 
would say, " do that shrewd, slick swindler, Curtis." 

" I'll drop one tiny hot coal on her pretty head," 
he again muttered with a smile, and then, as if 
smiles are never long with us, his thoughts reverted 
to the last time he saw Miss Hazel in the hammock 
with a citified gallant no doubt saying all sort of 
sweet things to her; whereat, it is needless to say, 
his smile vanished. 

Three days is a long time to a busv man who 



142 THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

has only his always active mind with books and 
cigars for company; and to Stacy, with many things 
to vex him besides, these three seemed interminable, 
and the two thorns in the flesh were Hazel's cool 
indifference, and the fear that Uncle Asa would 
fail to land this Otero as Stacy had instructed him 
and so nullify all chance of obtaining justice. 

" Uncle Asa's too honest to cope with such vil- 
lains," Stacy said to himself, recalling his benign 
face with its enclosing fringe of white beard like 
a halo. " He judges all mankind by himself, and 
will get left in this diamond-cut-diamond game." 

It was four A. M. when Stacy's train halted at a 
small station where a branch line ran up to Raw- 
hide, and the only other victim of an unseemly time- 
table was a middle-aged man of vigorous build 
short-cropped black beard, and wearing a broad' 
hght-gray slouched hat, who alighted from another 
car. Of course the two bowed and smiled at one 
another as perforce they must, and Stacy, noticing 
that the other wore a Mystic Shrine pin, was first 
to speak. 

" ] ='« y°" h^^« -" he said, quoting the 

usual hailing words of that Order, and extending 
his hand. 

" ^ ''^^^ •" returned the other cordially. 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 143 

also offering his, and so mutual good fellowship 
was established on the instant. 

And never before was Stacy more glad that he 
belonged to that Order than now. 

"My name's Harkins, Jim Harkins," this man 
next added, "and bound for Rawhide. I live 
there." 

"And mine's Whipple from down east," Stacy 
returned. " I, too, am going up to Rawhide," and 
then he looked around. The station, a long one- 
story building labeled "Rawhide Junction," and 
divi.Jed into Wells-Fargo Express Office, baggage 
and waiting-room, with barn and one dwelling back 
of it, he recalled from his visit over six years previ- 
ous ; two other abodes and a pmall store had been 
added since, and beside the old stage road up into 
the mountains lay a narrow-gauge railroad. The 
sun was just reddening the mountains that seemed 
to rise one above another bare-topped, two of the 
most distant were snow-capped, and so clear the air 
and so silent this long narrow valley that the rumble 
of the departing train now miles away returned 
distinctly, even to the hiss of escaping steam. 

" We've got over two hours to wait for tlie east- 
bound train and ours up to Rawhide," Harkins 
next asserted after Stacy had obtained his bearings. 



144 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



" I've a couple of sandwiches and flask in my grip, 
will you join me in a bite and sup? It's no break- 
fast till we get to Rawhide about nine, if we have 
good luck." 

And so this keen-eyed, shrewd-spoken man made 
friends, and at once won the good will and confi- 
dence of the equally keen-witted Stacy. The latter 
was, however, disposed to be cautious regarding the 
nature of his errand here. 

" I was up at this Rawhide camp about seven 
years ago," he admitted casually after the one-sand- 
wich lunch in the empty waiting-room. " It has 
grown some since then, I presume." 

" You will hardly know it," returned Harkins di- 
rectly. " Then it was one of the roughest of min- 
ing camps without law or order, now we have good 
public buildings, a bank, hotels, and electric lights 
— a remarkable growth in that time." 

" You are a resident there, or in business, I as- 
sume?" came next from Stacy, who always sought 
facts by circuitous routes. 

" I was super of a mine when you were there, 
I am marshal now," answered Harkins modestly. 

And then a sudden thrill of satisfaction came to 
Stacy, for this was indeed good luck. 

" And did you happen to hear of or come in con- 
tact with a chap by the name of Curtis North about 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



145 



the time you were mine super? " queried Stacy cau- 
tiously. 

" Oh, yes, I knew all about him," responded Har- 
kins, flashing a sharp glance at Stacy. "A big, 
red-faced, white-whiskered, pompous cuss, and bad 
lot combined. He started a fake mine scheme there 
but got into some trouble and left 'tween two days. 
He and a pal of his, a low-down Greaser they used 
to call Skim; Otero was his name. They and a 
pair of women from 'Frisco done up a couple of 
miners from Humpback Camp further up, and lit 
out that night with the loot — or what the women 
didn't share. One of these miners was found dead 
in the shack the women had occupied, but they 
vanished before the murder was discovered." 

" But why weren't this North and his pal pur- 
sued, captured, and strung up?" inquired Stacy. 
" Was no evidence of the crime obtainable? " 

" Oh, plenty, but there wasn't much law in Raw- 
hide just then and nobody took the matter up. 
These two mine were doped, it was believed, by 
the women ; one got a cracked skull in the round-up, 
the other came to the next afternoon and told 
the story. There was a watch fob belonging to 
this whiskered chap found m the hut, also, a buffalo 
head of solid gold ; I've got it at home." 

For fully five minutes Stacy pondered over this 



ijmAx^jn/ammL :^^mmif^ 



t-^ 



^JM!tA.'<hfW'^m 



146 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



m< 



brief yet pertinent bit of mining-camp history — 
ordinary items in such a gathering of lawless hu- 
manity, yet the very facts he wanted or had hoped 
to find — before he decided what to say or ask for 
next. This fellow, Harkins, while a brother Mason 
and likely to be all right and on the square, was yet a 
stranger. He might be discreet, and he might not. 
Good fellowship and " on-the-squareness " didn't 
always carry discretiori as Stacy well knew, and he 
had come a thousand miles out of his way to obtain 
facts and set a trap for one of the shrewdest 
swindlers! Caution was almost obligatory now, 
and he had it in ample degree. 

" You spoke of a fake mining scheme started 
by this whiskered chap," he said finally ; " what was 
it?" 

" Oh, just the ordinary kind," laughed Harkins, 
as if such things were a joke, " and to skin the new- 
comers, the tenderfoots. This fellow North and 
his pal, the Greaser, got hold of an abandoned mine 
up the gulch, just a hole in the bank some fool had 
dug — that is they obtained the government patent 
on the claim — bouglit a few secondhand tools and 
set a couple of men to blasting, and the next I heard 
had organized the Rawliide Gold Mining and Re- 
duction Company, capital two hundred thousand 
dollars. They didn't even try to sell stock in Raw- 



Inh 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



147 



hide — the boys were onto the game there — only 
this North took trips away, gone a month or so, 
then back again, while Skim sorter waited 'round 
and bossed the two men blasting. When his pard, 
as I always counted this North, returned, they were 
in some one of the poker games on every nigh! and 
usually all night. It might have been six months, 
might be a year — we don't keep tabs on time over- 
much in a mining camp — after the two men were 
set at work blasting in what we all knew was a no- 
good mine, when this North gazoo brought these 
two women to Rawhide, and a tough pair they were, 
too ! One was known, I heard later, as ' Bricktop 
Molly ' and — well, you know the game such fairies 
play, and a lawless mining camp is just their sort 
of pasture. Anyhow these two kicked up quite a 
rumpus in Rawhide, then skinned out in the nick o' 
time to save themselves a coat of tar and new 
feathers." 

"Could this 'Bricktop Molly' be found now?" 
interposed Stacy. 

" I guess so," laughed Harkins, eyeing him curi- 
ously, " such a red head as hers couldn't be hid in 
Nevada." 

" I might need her for a witness," Stacy returned 
slowly, "or a make-believe one." Then he arose 
and extended his hand to Harkins. 



148 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



And then came a meeting of those two extended 
hands that inch by inch resolved itself into a clasp, 
the sacredness and obligation of which needs no 
words among true Masons the world over. A 
clasp or grip, by the way, that once exchanged be- 
tween such binds each to the other in loyal aid and 
assistance as naught else can. 

" And now. Brother Harkins," continued Stacy, 
after the two sat down again, " I'm going to tell 
you who I am, and what I'm after here." 

And tell he did, or at least all that would now 
interest Harkins, or pertained to the trap to catch 
Pentecost Curtis and pal, Otero, and bring them to 
justice. 

" I don't really want the bother of a court trial 
to jail them," admitted Stacy after this disclosure. 
" I do mean to obtain such evidence as will make 
North or Curtis give up the deed of this Bear Hole 
Swamp — I assume he has now obtained or soon 
will obtain from this Uncle Asa — and gladly, too, 
to escape the law. Also, give him such a scare that 
he will give Oakdale and Barre both a wide berth 
forever after." 

"I guess we can," asserted Harkins, while a 
meaning smile spread over his face. " I'll do what 
I can to help you, and that is some. The boys at 
Rawhide will back me in anything, even a lynching 



11 • 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



149 



-1.^1 



now, for since I took the marshalship I've driven 
out a good many bad characters we hadn't room 
for." 

" I'm willing to pay all expenses," admitted Stacy 
in response, " and liberally. I may also want you 
to come East and serve a warrant on Curtis North, 
alias Pentecost Curtis; possibly bring this miner 
who lived to tell the tale of that night's orgie, rob- 
bery and murder of his companion, and with that 
full hand of scare cards we might add an affidavit 
from this ' Bricktop Molly,' if she can be found 
and frightened into giving one." 

" I don't believe you will need all that hand," 
responded Harkins. "North will know me the 
moment he sets eyes on me, a warrant and my badge 
will do the trick in short order; if not, the buffalo 
head watch fob flashed at the right moment will 
add an ace that will convince him I hold the winning 
cards." 

And then once more these two men, brothers now 
in the cause of justice, shook hands. 

Another hour was passed in social chat with more 
cigars to add fraternalism, then the station agent 
made his appearance, said " Hullo Jim " to Har- 
kins, the east-bound train came along and dropped 
a half-dozen passengers, the narrow-gauge train 
backed up, its conductor said " All aboard for Raw- 



ISO THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

hide," and then for another hour Stacy watched out 
the car window and chatted with Harkins, while 
their train crawled up the narrow mountain gorge 
to that once lawless camp and hatchery of a 
swindle, and now prosperous mining town of Raw- 
hide. 



lr:if 



CHAPTER XIII 



HAZEL'S home life, or relation with her 
stepmother, was even more unpleasant 
than Stacy imagined, and all that made 
her endure it was love for her father, and loyalty 
to him. To begin with, the Widov\ Baker, as Sara 
had informed Stacy, was a Tartar and miser com- 
bined, and to obtain and hoard money her sole am- 
bition in life. She had, when Hazel was twelve 
years old, and two years after her mother's death, 
begun a deliberate assault upon Uncle Asa's feel- 
ings and sympathy with all the arts of a designing 
woman, and more from a false belief that Hazel 
needed a mother's care than from any feeling for 
her he had capitulated, so to speak, and installed 
her as mistress ni his ancient and lonesome abode. 
It was an unwise step, as he soon discovered, but 
the deed was done, the knot tied, and as he once 
admitted to himself, " arter the hook's in, it's in, 
'n' derned hard v.urk to git it out agin." He saw 
no way to do so in this case, and, as was his nature, 
set about wuvking the best of vi philosophically. 
" We got to grin 'n' beat some things in this world, 
151 



u 



152 THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

Hazel," he said to her soon after her return from 
school in Barre, " 'n' carry a cross, ez the parson 
sez. Mebbe Martha 'n' them two boys o' hern is 
my cross now. All I kin hope fer is you will help 
me bear it till ye git married, if ye do, 'n' then — 
wal then I'm goin' to build me a shack down by the 
shore 'n' live thar 'n' drop the cross. Martha kin 
hev the house all to herself then." 

So unfit for one another were they that within 
two years after the fatal step Uncle Asa began oc- 
cupying a separate sleeping-room, and after that 
avoided Martha as much as possible. Hazel could 
neither do or say anything to mend matters, in fact, 
had no wish to do so. From the very outset, she 
despised, almost hated her stepmother, and in order 
not to be obligated in any way to her, as soon as 
she obtained a chance to teach, she insisted upon 
paying Martha for her board. This was tlie family 
status that June day when Stacy burst out of the 
woods upon her so suddenly, and one cause for her 
first apparent dislike of him arose from the fact 
that Martha speedily assured her that he must be 
an eligible catch for a husband and, " if she knew 
her business she'd set her cap for him forthwith." 
To " set her cap " for anybody was not H-nzel's 
way, and to be urged to do so by a stepmother she 
hated, was even worse. " I'm not running after 



. ilj 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



'53 



any man as I've known some shameless women to 
do," she sarcastically assured Martha, " and I don't 
need your advice. I just despise any woman who 
will do sucii a thing." Then, having discharged 
this Parthian arrow, she left her. 

Another and more serious cause for distrust of 
Stacy came intuitively to her the first day when 
Uncle Asa took him fishing, and was due to her 
suspicion that he was another Curtis North, and 
there to inveigle some one in some swindling 
scheme. His unexpected return five days after his 
departure — for she heard Of it the night he ar- 
rived — also made her more distrustful, and then, 
to cap the climax, came an assertion from this cousin 
of Molly Bascom, soon after Stacy saw these two 
in the hammock. 

"Who is his job lots?" this Arthur Penrose 
questioned rather flippantly after Stacy had raised 
his hat and passed on. 

"Oh, it's a Mr. Whipple from Albion," re- 
sponded Hazel, indifferently. "He was here last 
week trout fishing, and father took him out. I 
don't know anything more about him, or care." 

" I saw him hanging around the Barre House the 
past four days," Master Arthur rejoined, " : id once 
also in close discussion with another stranger — 
two, in fact — down by the docks. One was a big, 



jW - " ft:. 




f 



154 THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

pompous fellow with white side-whiskers. His 
name. I found out. was a queer one — Pentecost 
Curtis — and he'd been loafing around Barre a 
week." 

Then, and straiffhtway. Hazel did sit up and take 
notice I "Did he have a red face — a big fat 
man—" she queried anxiously, "and wear a heavy 
gold chain and big watch charm? " 
^^ "Yes, that's him," returned Arthur cheerfully. 
"A regular old man dude with stunning togs. 
That's what made me look him upL He was a 
whooper. and the chap with him, he was a little 
monkey, with snaky eyes — Mexican, 1 should say. 
I can't imagine what they were in Barre for. Put- 
ting up some scheme with this chap who bowed to 
you, I guess. They looked the part." 

The fat was in the fire now and blazing merrily 
-at least in Hazel's mind, and she at once began 
to ply her Barre friend with all manner of ques- 
tions anent these two and their possible errand in 
Barre, but without eliciting any more facts than 
had been vouchsafed her. With unusual feminine 
discretion, also, she kept her suspicions of who this 
Pentecost Curtis actually was to herself, and Mr. 
Arthur Penrose, while willing enougli to carry gos- 
sip to Oakdale, and insinuate all manner of evil 
things against a man who even bowed to Hazel — 



'j'UW'%'-7S'^''^mMffijj^miumsmip^^ 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



»S5 



whom, by the way, he admired intensely — was de- 
prived of any chance to car--- news to Barre. 
Neither would she or did she . any questions 
about Stacy now. Not from an^ sentimental in- 
terest in him, for none ' I'l come to her so far, yet 
she was lofty in her idc-s .,f honor, and, therefore, 
Stacy, having once broNon bread in her tent, so to 
speak, was, or mi.t be considered, a friend until 
actually proven otlitrwise 

The lawn part;,, c. wint it actniily was, a dozen 
of Oakdale's you;:;,' folk ^iulicrtd to lu'lp entertain 
Miss Molly Bascom's cou.-i-:., swon lost ils attrac- 
tion for Hazel. She wn-: too anxioin to see her 
father and question him to enjoy anytMng here, so 
she excused herself, and made ready tc depart. 

" I'm coming over this evenin;;-, may I? " Arthur 
whispered at the gate, and a smile frrnn Flazel at 
his way of asking and cool " Yes, if you won't stay 
late," were his reward, for the plain fact was, that 
Mr. Arthur Penrose, while from one of the best 
Barre families, bored Hazel e.xcessively. She had 
met him during her one winter's experience of social 
life in Barre, had danced with him, been escorted 
to theaters, he had visited Oakdale twice before — 
once remaining two weeks, while a common friend. 

Miss Jennie Oaks, was sojourning with Hazel 

and nil to pav court to Hazel. It had availed him 



«£?^r^ 



156 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



hi h: 



but little, for while considtred " a nice young man," 
he was shallow and foppish, smoked cigarettes, 
which Hazel abominated, and she therefore barely 
tolerated him. And now, in spite of her distrust of 
Stacy, even in spite of this new revelation of his 
probable duplicity, she was forced to contrast the 
two men, and Stacy lost nothing by it. Once away 
from the lawn party this peculiar contradiction 
found expression quite characteristic of her. 

" Oh, why will nice manly men stoop to ways that 
are dark and tricks that are vain? " she said to her- 
self homeward bound. " He certainly is a manly 
fellow, his feyes haunt me, he is swayed by music, 
and so has some fine sentiment, and he is so fear- 
less I Oh, I wish I didn't have to distrust him ! " 
Who "he" was, it is '- 'dless to assert. 
But she was full to the i-am with suspicion now. 
That this white-whiskered man whom she recalled 
so vividly and his nefarious visit to Oakdale, had 
now been seen in consultation with Stacy, was 
proof positive of the latter's being another such 
swindler, and his visit to the village inevitably must 
be for a sinister purpose. And early that evening, 
or when first she could speak to her father alone, 
she pounced upon him like a young hawk. 

" Father," she said in triumphant tone, " you 
know what my suspicions of that Mr. Whipple 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



157 



were, or what I said of him — well, he went to 
Barre from here, met and had a consultation with 
that Curtis North (now calling himself Pentecost 
Curtis), who sold you that mine stock, and came 
back to see you again, I know, for Martha says he 
was here this morning. You took him to the train 
I am sure, and — and, father, there is some game 
afoot you won't tell me about. Did you know he 
went to Barre to meet that man I'm sure is a 
swindler? " 

Then Uncle Asa's face took on one of his benign 
.smiles and his eyes twinkled. 

" Girlie," he said tenderly, yet chuckling, " you've 
found a whangdoodle's nest, sure's a gun, 'n' the 
old bird's on! I own up. I'm caught. I hain't 
'zarkly bought some mine stock, I've done wuss, I've 
swapped the hull farm, the house, 'n' B'ar Hole 
Swamp for the mine itself!" 

Then he chuckled again. 

" Come, girlie," he added a moment later, and en- 
closing her face in his two hands — a way with 
him — " can't ye trust yer old dad no more ? Do ye 
honestly think I'd git bit by the same snake twice 
agoin'? That is 'lowin' I was bit by that mine 
stock, which ain't sartin yet ? Do ye honestly think 
I neet. a keeper over me, girlie? " 

" Oh. no. no, father. I don't." came from 



IS8 THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

Hazel speedily. "Only what does all this mean 
and d>d you know that North man was in Barre to 
meet Mr. Whipple? Oh, tell me, please, father." 

Ill tell ye suthin most gals ez sweet ez you 'ud 
hke better to know," he responded. " That is if 
you-ll keep mum. Swar to goodness, ye will?" 

" Yes, yes, father," again in anxious tone, " what 
is It? " 

" Wal, girlie " (more tenderly and now enclosing 
her .the waist with one arm), " thar's a nice young 
feller come here 'bout ten days ago, saw ye fust go 
off up un,ler the big pi„e tree, seen ve a good deal 
sense n' he's -wal, he's fallen plumb, plunk in 
love wnh ye, all over, hook, line, bob, 'n' sinker' 
Ihar now, what'd ye think o' that? " 
Then Hazel grew rose red. 
'•Did he say so?" she queried, quivering. 
Say so!" ejaculated Uncle Asa with a snort, 
^^ay g,rhe, do ye s'pose that Whipple feller is a 
plumb gone jibberin' idjit 'n' rapscallion biled into 
one? He hain't said nothin' 'cept you was a gal 
whose smile he'd consider ez the key to Heaven or 
suthin o; that sort. Oh, youve found out a lot, 
but thars more comin'- mebbe _ vou can't even 
,|rt.ess now, '„' I won't tell ye." Then and much to 
ilazel s surprise, he stooped suddenly and kissed her 



urn 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



159 



And that night in the seclusion of her room and 
when ready for Slumberland, Hazel held com- 
munion with herself. Also, and at the same time, 
surveyed herself in her small gilt- framed mirror — 
too small to do justice to the reflected picture that 
now smiled nut from it. And her rose-tinted face, 
tender eyes, and luxuriant black hair like a flowing 
mane half enclosing her daintily rounded shoulders, 
white-draped, made a picture that would have set 
Stacy's heart a-tingle could he but peeped in just 
then. A strangely sweet and quite new mysticism 
also added a thrill to her own pulses, half vexing, 
half enchanting, scarce explainable. And was this 
man, this bold fellow she had so doubted and dis- 
trusted, yet admired, the coming Prince Perfect 
ready to lay his heart at her dainty feet for her 
to say " yes " to, and let him dominate her life or 
else reject, as she now felt that she would if the 
chance came? And what was the meaning of her 
father's hilarious action? In all the years of their 
life since her mother's death she had never seen him 
in such a mood, so like a big boy ready to shout an<l 
turn handsprings from insane joy. And what 
could have happened so to upset him ? What magic 
spell had this new admirer of her own sweet self 
woven over her calm, philosophic father? And 



i6o THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

right in the face of a discovery of her own that she 
felt was prima facie evidence of this young man's 
guilt? It was past understanding I 

And the more she conned the situation over, 
Stacy Whipple's visit here, his open admiration of 
herself — pleasing and quite natural, his going 
away, mysterious and sudden return, pursuit of her 
father, and now tliis gay turn of her benign parent 
all combined — the more mysterious it all seemed. 
And why should this young man first disclose his 
love for herself to her father? It wasn't the usual 
way, according to her own intuitions and the story 
books. No harm, of course, and quite honorable, 
yet unusual. But there was something beyond 
this, som« other development more astounding than 
the simple one of an admission of love for herself 
she was sure. She had never been one to question 
her father's moods to any extent. She had un- 
hmited faith in his good sense and love for her- 
self, and also knew that her stepmother had 
proved herself a thorn in his side, and that any 
inquiries as to the cause of his moods, had better be 
avoided. She believed as well that his own honesty 
and confidence in others had been taken advantage 
of by this swindler, North, and why might it not 
be another swindling game now being worked by 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



i6i 



Stacy, with an assertion of love for herself as a 
clinching argument? 

During the call of Mr. Penrose that evening, he 
had repeated his description of this Pentecost Cur- 
tis and Otero with rather vapid assertions about 
their mission to Barre, but this had no weight with 
Haze! now beyond the fact of identity. The one 
crucial mystery, the one past all understanding, was 
why her father, knowing her suspicions of Stacy, 
should yet ignore them now in the face of being 
assured that Curtis North, masked as Pentecost 
Curtis, had been seen in consultation with him. 

It is needless to say that she found Slumberland 
far distant that night, and so worried was she over 
this problem, that she tossed and turned on her 
pillow for hours, unconscious of the murmur of the 
near-by brook or the sweet fragrance of the bloom- 
ing lilacs that entered her open windows. While 
she might have enjoyed tiie first sweet illusion of 
love, or its coming to tinge her dreams, instead, it 
was the ogre of duplicity and danger to her father 
that haunted her. 

Three days after, and duly delivered to her by 
the stage driver. Uncle Levi, came the package of 
books and music from Stacy. 
" It's from Albion," Uncle Levi asserted, watch- 



1 62 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



15 



ing her curiously. " Wa'n't that whar that young 
feller, Whipple, cum from?" 

" I am sure I don't know," declared Hazel inno- 
cently. "I never asked Mr. Whipple where he 
came from." 

" I s'pose ye know, or ye've heard," he added, 
" somebody's goin' to buy B'ar Hole Swamp 'n' dam 
it, hain't ye? He told me so, anyhow." 

" Oh, yes, I heard that three days ago," returned 
Hazel indifferently, " but I don't believe it." Then 
she hurried to her room to open the package as 
speedily as possible ; also with trembling fingers and 
flushed face as well, for she knew on the instant who 
had sent it. 

And one day later, on the arrival of the last train 
from Barre, there alighted from it a dapper little 
chap with shifty black eyes, mustache waxed to two 
sharp points, garbed in light-grey summer suit, tan 
shoes, gray spats, and carrying a cane and suit-case. 
" It ees to Oakdale town I vish to go," he said to 
Uncle Levi. And long before he arrived there he 
became fully informed by that worthy talebearer 
of several pertinent facts and the intentions of some 
mysterious persons, as Stacy had intended that he 
should be. 

The trap w.is now well bailed and wide open. 



CHAPTER XIV 



SIX years of the inrush of gold seekers to a 
mining camp is like a generation of time 
towards its growth. In a night, almost, it 
springs up like Jonah's gourd or a mushroom ; and 
from the cluster of the crudest sod hovels and board 
shacks Stacy first saw Rawhide to be — now as he 
looked upon it from the piazza of the " Hotel Raw- 
hide " that morning of his arrival, lie beheld a mar- 
vel of growth and change. From this vantage point 
at the upper end of its main street he saw handsome 
gray stone buildings with big plate glass windows, 
and architectural in design. A bank with pillars 
and bastions of gray marble occupied one strtet cor- 
ner, a ten-story iron and concrete building faced it, 
tlie spirts of three churches — one upbearing a big 
gilt cross, evidently Catholic — arose from the med- 
ley of structures, the white globes of arc lights were 
in ample evidence adown the vista, and trollev cars 
could be seen coming or going upon the main thor- 
oughfare. Beyond and across the canyon, tiers of 
dwellings arose along the base of the mountain 
slope, an iron bridge crossed the brauKup stream 



1 64 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



shop chimneys p«.'epiii up from its bank, and a busy, 
crowding tlirong of humanity, including well- 
dressed women, were everywhere visible. 

For an hour Stacy surveytxl this panorama of 
amazing growth while he srt>ok«vl and cogitated 
upon the phenomenon, then Harkins came up to the 
hot ' 

' I'll show you arouml <w», Mr. Whipple," he as- 
si ed Stacy, and nothing Loth the latter joined him 
in a tour of inspection. 

"I can't locate a single landmark," Stacy ad- 
mitted after a half-lunir of this, " not even 'he spot 
where the one-story saloon stood and where I saw 
this Curtis North and his pal, ' Skim,' as you called 
him, swapping cards." 

" There's where it stood," replied Harkins, point- 
ing to a six-story building with a dry-goods store 
occupying an entire lower floor, "and Tom Mc- 
Cue, the jolly Irishman who ran it, owns that block 
and is worth a round million and so fat he o,in't 
run or fight. All he does is collect his rentf, and <cll 
stories of the ' ould days' in Rawhide. He is a 
character here, with a memory like a mirror and the 
deeds, doings, and history of the old camp crowd at 
his tongue's end. We will drop into Tim Riley's 
saloon, his loafing place, and I'll introduce you as a 
tourist visiting licre. 



THE CASTLE BUILDKRS 



«6S 



" There's where the cabin stood whrre that rminer 
was found dead," Harkins said five minutes later, 
on a side street and pointing to a pretentious con- 
crete building labeled " Odeon Theater, Vaudeville." 
" And here is the watch charm your man North 
wore that fatal night." he added, now drawing it 
from his pocket. " I found it under the dead man 
that afternoon. It was this clue and the fact both 
North and Skim had hired horses at two o'clock that 
morning and rode to the station, leaving on the same 
train you came on, that satisfied me they were par- 
ties to the murder. The two women took the stage 
leaving here then at about seven in the morning, and 
the killing was not heard of until that afternoon, or 
when this other miner came to and crawled out of 
the cabin." 

Stacy took the massive gold buffalo-head fob now 
destined to play so important a part in his pl.uis, and 
eyed it curiously. It was crudely made, evidently 
filed or carved from a lump of virgin go! I, and as 
conspicuous and vulgar a part of man's adornment 
as Curtis North himself was of the race of men. 
Doubtless, also, as now recurred to Stacy in an in- 
stant there must be scores of men in Rawhide who 
would swear to having seen it worn by Curtis North, 
if that was necessary, tluis adding one mnie valua- 
ble fact or bit of evidence. 



i66 



THE CASTLF. BUILDERS 



" Don't lose it, Mr. Harkiiis," he cautioned liim, 
now handing it bacl<. " It may be wortli ten times 
its weight to me later on." 

" I've kept it safe for almost six years," Harklns 
returned smiling, " so guess I can keep it a few 
months more. 

" Here's where McCue loafs," he added, now 
leading the way through a lu.xuriously furnished 
bar-room into its back room, and here were two 
men tilted back in their chairs and smoking black 
clay pipes. One, Stacy recognized on the instant as 
the redoubtable McCue ; rotund and red-faced. 

A " Hullo, Jim," from him to Harkins, as he 
arose and the two shook hands, and a " My friend, 
Mr. Whipple, Mr. McCue and Mr. Casey," com- 
prised the off-hand greetings, and then the incomers 
sat down. 

" Mr. Whipple is a friend of mine paying Raw- 
hide a flying visit, Tom," Harkins next explained, 
" and I brought him here to call on you." 

" Ony frind o' yours is me frind, too," McCue 
responded, now rapping on a small round table. 
" Sarve the jintl'min," he added with a grandilo- 
quent handwave to the barkeeper who came at his 
sum nons, " an' the bist ye hov." 

•'An' so ye do be visitin' the town, is it?" he 



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THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



167 



next queried, after the libation and relighting his 
pipe. "Well, it's a foine city, so it be, but dom 
dull now. Not loike the ould times at all, at all." 

" I was here about six years ago for a few days," 
Stacy asserted in response, " and visited your place 
a few times." 

" An' did ye ? " smiled McCue, much pleased. 
" Shure that was foine. Och, be jabers, but we l^id 
g-r-reat fun those days, shure we did," he continued. 
" Not a week but someone was shot or sthrung up 
by the b'ys for devilmint. Ah, but those toimes 
war g-r-reat for sport. Shure I had two kilt in me 
place one month, so I did, but it's all over now. 
Nothin' doin' at all, sor, but ate an' slape an' pull at 
me pipe all the day long." 

Then he sighed and puffed hard at his pipe to get 
it well going again. 

"Do ye raycollect the little Chink, Jim, we 
sthrung up one mornin' ? " he again continued after 
the pause, " the little monkey, so he war, who put a 
ball into Andy O'Houlihan jist bekase he took hi? 
washin' widout payin'? An' how we forgot to tie 
his hands an' the cuss got holt o' the rope an' climbed 
up an' tlie b'ys shot him ? Ah, but thar war lively 
toimes thin, an' money so plinty, too. Many a night 
I tuk in two hundred dollars in me place jist for 



i68 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



dhrinks, an' as much more in the two kitties. But 
the ould toimes is gone for good, an' dom dull now, 
dom dull." 

" Do you remember a fellow by name of North, 
Curtis North?" Stacy now inquired, smiling at 
the Irishman who so enjoyed shootings and lynch- 
ings. " A chap with big white side-whiskers? " 

"An' shure I .do," smiled McCue, cheering up 
again, " an' a broth ov a b'y he war, too, to spind 
money, jist loike it war brown laves an' he owned 
the world. But he wint sour over a couple o' wim- 
men, so he did, an' lift bechune two days. Kilt a 
man for 'era, didn't he, Jim? A Swede be the 
name o' Johnson, an' 'most kilt another, Olaf Tyg- 
son, wa'n't it, Jim ? " 

"I think that was the name," responded Har- 
kins, also smiling. " Some sort of a -son. They 
both were like all Swedes. Do you know what has 
become of him?" 

*' Oh, he's livin', so he is," answered McCue. " I 
saw him in town a month ago. He's up to Tlump- 
back now, so he be." 

" Do you have any idea where the women are ? " 
Stacy next queried, cautiously. " That is, if anyone 
wanted to find them? " 

" Shure I don't," came from McCue, now eyeing 
Stacy sharply, " an'— an'— a.xin' yer pardon, sor. 



>i.-4«:/*i 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



169 



but take me advice an' don't be chasin' 'em, sor, 
widout ye want to lose money an' lots of it, sor. 
Them sort of wimmen do be the divil's own, so 
they be. Lave 'em alone, Mister Whipple, lave 'em 
alone." 

Much more of this loquacious Irishman's dia- 
logue was listened to by Stacy with interest ; then, 
after treating in turn, he and Harkins made another 
tour of the town and returned to the hotel. 

" It looks as if you had all the evidence you 
need," Harkins now asserted. " This Swede, Tyg- 
son, can be found if you care to go to the expense, 
and we can take him east to confront your man. 
North, if you wish. My idea, however, is it won't 
be necessary to do that. It all depends upon what 
you want to do, Mr. Whipple. Is it law and justice 
you want meted out to him, or just force him to give 
up the deed you explained about? Take your 
choice ; you can have either one, but not both." 

'■ I know that," admitied Stacy, stroking his mus- 
tr " But — but — I want to think it over be- 

fore deciding. There are wheels within wheels in 
this affair, and mixed up in the game is a handsome 
adventuiess I once admired, now intimate with your 
Greaser, ' Skim,' or Otero ; also with Curtis North 
and a member of the Barre town committee, who 
are obligated to pay us a lot of money in the near 



^Mra/wm-" 



'■t^s« 



170 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



future. Oh, it's a tnerry mix-up, I assure you. 
The one thing I am positive about is that I don't 
want to make a personal enemy now, or any more 
so than she is, of this handsome adventuress I told 
you about. She has no hold en me, yet you know 
a woman lik 'at can make things mighty unpleas- 
ant for any man if she sets about it." 

" Right you are," laughed Harkins, who had 
traveled, and observed many things. " The joker 
in this pack is the woman — Carmen, I think you 
said her name was — or rather her beauty and its 
pull on men is the joker. No, Brother Whipple," 
he added after a long pause, " don't play any game 
for high stakes with a joker in the pack. It isn't 
safe. And even less so when the said joker is a 
handsome woman without a scrap of honor." 

And just then Stacy thought of the diamond 
bracelet this harpy had obtained with mate to it 
promised, for her aid to " Jo " him, and grinned 
ruefully. Also kicked himself, metaphorically, to 
think how he once had been made so many kinds of 
a fool of by his admiration if " La Rosa." 

Hazel's face came to mind at this juncture as 
well, and tlie fine scorn that would spread over it 
were she but informed how he had once pursued 
the Carmen. Innocently, too, as a matter of fact, 
and yet Hazel would never believe it of him — no 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



171 



woman will — as he knew full well; and then an- 
other rueful grin came to his lips, for none of us 
enjoys the predicament of being wrongfully be- 
lieved guilty, yet unable to prove it. 

" I think. Brother Harkins," he said finally, " we 
will go a leetle slow in 'his matter, as Uncle Asa 
would say. I'd like to see justice meted out to this 
swindler and murderer combined. I almost feel 
that I'd enjoy what your friend McCue admits he so 
often did — a lynching bee with Curtis North as its 
star feature. If he could be lured to this town and 
a picked committee of ' the b'ys ' given a tip to do 
their duty it would, as Col. Sellers said, 'meet 
with my entire approbation.' But I don't see how 
it can be done. If my trap scores, and you and I 
can make North give up the deed I suppose he has 
now obtained, I'll spend a thousand dollars to aid 
you in luring 'his whiskers' to Rawhide and — 
you can attend to the rest. But from my viewpoint 
now I don't want to be mixed up in it. 

" I've got to go on to Seattle," he added after a 
moment's pause, "and must use a month to fin! A 
my business in the West. In the meantime I wish 
you'd hunt up this Olaf Tygson, obtain any sort of 
affidavit you think best from him, also any other 
corroborative evidence you can find, and when I 
return to Rawhide, as I shall before going East, we 



173 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



will decide how to act. It may be best for you to 
go on with me and land this villain before he skips 
the country. " 

Then, being a considerate business man, he wrote 
a check for two hundred dollars and handed it to 
Harkins, " for contingent expenses," as he assured 
him. 

" Your town, Mr. Harkins, with its .marvelous 
growth appeals to me especially," Stacy continued, 
changing the subject, after this adjustment of their 
mutual plans, " for I am by nature an air-castle 
builder myself, and here is a pertinent example of 
what we in the East would call an impossibility. 
Also proof positive that law, order, and prosperity 
go hand in hand. Six years a Rawhide, as you 
assert, was practically a canker sj, ot on the map with 
a few hundred greedy gold-seekers for its main 
population and workers, with perhaps one quarter 
as many thieves, swindlers, and harpies who came to 
prey upon them. That condition, or what your 
friend McCue called ' great doin's wid lynchin's an' 
shootin's ivery wake or two,' lasted but a short 
while, then, presto! law steps in, away go the evil 
spirits, the law-breakers, and a well-ordered and 
well-behaved town springs up in place of the pest 
house of vice it once was. You, also, with your 



. ^« !■ J^f. ■ 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



173 



Vigilance Committee backing, are entitled to much 
of the credit as well." 

" Yes, a little, maybe," responded Harkins mod- 
estly, " and the same law and order will in due time 
clean out and purify all mining camps, I've noticed. 
All it needs is to have the organization of public 
sentiment, string up a few, and the rest fall over 
themselves to jet away, as they did from here." 

" How would it work if this Curtis North was 
to set foot in Rawhide now?" interrupted Stacy, 
castle building again. " Would you and your back- 
ers decide a lynching bee about the right welcome 
for him? " 

"Oh, I could fix it, maybe," smiled Harkins, 
"but it wouldn't be necessary. We have a law 
court now." 

" Yes, and lawyers to quibble and fight prosecu- 
tion and defeat justice just as long as a criminal's 
money lasts," responded Stacy, who had had experi- 
ence with the clan. 

" That is true," admitted Harkins, smiling again, 
"but I suppose lawyers are a mi\;d evil from a 
percentage basis. That is, allowing that one in five 
is strictly honest and would not knowingly defend 
an actual criminal no matter how fat the fee." 
" Put it one in ten and I'll accept the amend- 



'74 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



ik 



tnent," interjected Stacy, who was more of a cynic. 

" And now and then an innocent man needs de- 
fense," continued Harkins, " so we do need lawyers 
after all." 

" Yes, perhaps in a few cases," asserted Stacy, 
" but what we need more is a higher standard of 
professional honor among them — tliose who would 
refuse to defend anyone they had reason to believe 
was guilty. As it ib, not one in ten but tnat will 
lock his conscience in the safe and fight justice 
tooth and nail so long as a criminal's money lasts." 

When Stacy left Kawiiide the next lay he car- 
ried away two ciistinct impressions: First, of its 
marvelous growth and purification from a rude 
mining camp where vice and crime of every grade 
ruled supreme, to a prosperous, well-behaved, and 
properly-governed town with churches, a librar 
and law and order; the other, its picturesque loca- 
tion at the apex of a triangular valley surrounded 
by sharply-defined mountains, between two of which 
opened a winding gorge, and adown which leap?d 
and cascaded a sizable stream called The Humii- 
ba-k. Timber — fir, spruce, and larch of primal 
grow h • — covered a!! foothills ; the stream was lim- 
itless for the production of power; gold-bearing 
quartz was the basic feature of the mountain, and so 
herein and hereabout lay all the rudiments needed 



!:;! 



THE CASTLR BUII.DKRS 



»73 



for a prosperous mining Utwn such as had alrcndy 
started. And no-- as all this crystallized in his 
mind and became a fixed picture, back to Oakdale 
he leaped in thmght and *o the city soon to spring 
up at the bidding of another sti'ini — tjie Rocky 
Glen brook, with a snug harbor and tlie white wings 
of commerce to add impetus. Here was no lawless 
camp to overcome and purify. Instead, here lay a 
fertile valley, already tilled, and a community of 
simple-minded, God-respecting farmers of pure 
hlood and honest minds, to start his city aright. 
And here, also, dwelt a keen-witted, sweet-faced 
little maid, whose mind was beyond her years and 
who had sprung cut of the .shadow of obscurity like 
a bewitching fairy to touch his heart with the magic 
V. jnd of love, and perhaps become the queen of his 
future life. 

rtnd now, once mc-e on board a main line Pull- 
man train and speeding further westward, somehow 
he began to feel him.sclf in the lilac and syringa- 
shaded porcli in Hazel Dell once more, to smell the 
mingled fragrance of that sequestered spot, :w[ to 
hear the murmuring broo!: and Hazel's auto-harp 
again. 

" In love ? " vou ask once more. 

Yes, very mucli so now In fact so much sn that 
no peace and no rest for his air-casllc-buiUIiiig spirit 



176 



THE CASTLli BUILDERS 



was possible unless this occult little fairy queen 
sliared it. 

In the meantime, Curtis North, alias Pentecost 
Curtis, and O'cro must be reckoned with. 



I ' 



CHAPTER XV 



AS Sam Walter Foss h: so impressively said, 
" There are pioneer souls that blaze their 
path where never highway ran." And 
Stacy Whipple's v such a one. There are. also, 
other pioneer souls not as sensible and idyllic as his 
who L'-aze their way, not as he did in the skies, but 
underground. And Curtis North was possessed of 
one. From the very outset of his life as a well- 
educated son of a Puritan fath he had found liv- 
ing by his wits and imposing upon the credulity of 
others an easy matter. Beginning as a peddler of 
quack nostrums, he had taken to being a ince 
age, It for a circus, then to running a side si /as 
part of that, together with the usual gambling de- 
vices used to fleece the unsophisticated. Next, he 
became manager of a branch bucket shop in a small 
city, with a poker club as an adjunct, and finally, 
with ample means gathered in these various indus- 
tries, he had drifted vestward to Rawhide, met and 
attached to himself one Leon Otero, as unscrupulous 
and keen-witted a gambler as he, and organized 
The Rawhide Gold Mining and Reduction Company 
177 



178 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



t 

E i 



in legal manner and of alluring prospectus, and thus 
armed and equipped had returned East to a more 
civilized country to sell stock and devoar the un- 
wary. 

But, like many another bumptious and successful 
gambler, he sighed for new people to conquer, 
greater schemes to manipulate, and a wider scope 
for swindling. To this end and purpose he came 
to New York, and to that Mecca of all greatest 
gamblers. Wall Street. Here, with an office in the 
name of " Curtis & Company " in a building devoted 
to such, he had just established himself when along 
came a " tip," as he would call it, that led him to 
Barre. He did not go to Oakdale, for obvious rea- 
sons, however. He had been there once as Curtis 
North and carried away a mere trifle of about five 
thousand dollars as reward for a month's pleasure 
sojourn. Anyhow, that was not necessary. He 
now had a side-partner of as keen wits, if less 
money, who could do as well — even better — since 
to facilitate such swindling he was now posing as 
the ostensible agent for a steamship company whose 
business was the importation of emigrants from 
various European countries. 

And be it said, criminals of all classes and both 
sexes were just as welcome to them as honest people, 
so long as the price was forthcoming. 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



179 



Not for long did Curtis North — now and for 
five years masked as Pentecost Curtis, the given 
name of which had been his father's — remain in 
Barre. It was neither prudent nor necessary, and so 
having hatched the plot that was adroitly and also 
legally to make the firm of Bemis, Colby & Com- 
pany pay well for a reservoir site they needed, he 
left the details to be worked out by his tool, Otero, 
and hied himself away to New York. 

Here, in line with his new vocation and ambition, 
he began to lay plans for another swindling scheme, 
which was the broad and comprehensive one of 
organizing a stock company to buy up and reclaim 
a few thousand acres of worthless marsh land on 
the Passaic river above Newark. To this end he 
first set about obtaining a charter under the com- 
plaisant laws of New Jersey. He secured next a 
suitable chart or map of the lands in question, with 
a prospectus in connection therewith, setting forth 
in glowing terms the ostensible object of the com- 
pany and plans and dividends sure to be paid. This, 
also, he knew, was the trump card sure to take the 
trick of the gullible public's money. It had worked 
successfully in the Rawhide swindle, and while not 
all of that capital stock had been sold before its 
master spirit grew wary, changed his name, and 
abandoned it, enough had been converted into cash 



11 



i8o 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



it, 



to give him means to carry out a fourfold greater 
one. 

But the carrying out of this new, larger, and more 
plausible scheme must take more time. Surveys 
and maps must be made and men hired to make 
them. A few business men of minor prominence 
and some reputation for honesty must be cajoled 
and persuaded to allow the use of their names — 
given stock, of course, as payment. Printers' ink 
and lithographers' aid were to be called in, and 
many lesser details attended to. The plan and 
proposition must also wear the guise of legality, 
and once hatched and under way, some land must 
actually be bought, more secured for possible need 
by the attainment of options, and everything 
apparently done from honest intent and purpose. 
The firm of Curtis & Company, Mills Building, 
Wall Street, were, of course, reputable business 
men! Pentecost Curtis, a well-to-do financier 
whose experience and money was back of and in 
this philanthropic scheme to furnish low-cost 
building lots and home sites for the working class 
of an overcrowded city! Why, to be sure, they 
were, as everything in the prospectus must assert ; 
and beyond that, no loophole must be left whereby 
if the plan failed any disgruntled investor could 
take legal action against the immaculate and honor- 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



i8i 



■ 



able firm of Curtis & Company ! Not for one mo- 
ment! That would be preposterous! 

And so Pentecost Curtis, fat, sleek, suave, smooth- 
spoken, always well-garbed, and living luxuriously 
at a prominent hotel, stroked his flowing side- 
whiskers, smoked choice cigars, took an occasional 
flyer in the stock market to keep in touch with men 
whose names he might need later, and assured 
every one he became at all intimate with that stock 
speculation was after all too risky for him to follow, 
and that the more stable one of investment in and 
improvement of suburban property promised safer 
and more certain returns. 

And it did — to him. 

He did not fear ever meeting one of those he had 
swindled as Curtis North, or any outcome from tlie 
debauch that had cost a poor miner his life. That, 
after all, was only an episode common enough in the 
lawless camp where it happened, where a gambler 
shot over a card table, or a red-handed desperado 
strung up on the nearest tree was an incident forgot- 
ten in a week. If ever accused of connection with 
this orgie of drink and robbery he could brazenly 
deny his identity, he was sure, and force its belief. 
Only two factors or connecting links ever troubled 
him. The first, his whiskers so noticeable, also so 
consoling to his vanity; he had even thouglit best 



■■v: jvt^'unr , 



m 



183 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



at the time he changed his name to shave them oflF, 
but so satisfying were they to liis own self-approval 
that he could not do so. The other and less dan- 
gerous link was the lost watch fob he had not 
missed that fatal niglit until too late to return and 
look for it. Tliat it had been taken possession of 
by one of the women he was positive — they were 
the sort who kept all they got, no matter how ob- 
tained — and he was almost certain that this valua- 
ble lump of gold had long ago vanished in some 
melting crucible. So far as his connection with 
The Rawhide Gold Mining Company was con- 
cerned, and the many he had induced to buy stock, 
it never troubled him one iota. There were so 
many others like it, organized wherever gold was 
mined or oil found, that were as specious, that one 
more, or his own, only proved him to be in the 
wide-spread game of swindling gullible investors 
who deserved no pity since they only bought from 
the belief that they were to receive fabulous returns. 
He was not afraid to go to Oakdale, either, or to 
meet Uncle Asa. He would have assured that con- 
fiding " Rube," as he thought him to be. that Raw- 
hide stock was all right, the mine being developed 
slowly but surely, anf* that it sooner or later would 
pay big dividend- He would, so conscienceless 
was he, and possessed of so much brazen impudence, 



■y,"tMi rmfviL^' 



■'r'm-S- ilAMII 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



183 



have set out to sell even Uncle Asa inore stock, also 
others, only for one fact ; that for certain unfortunate 
reasons he had decided to leave Rawhide in haste 
and change his name. There was, also, one other 
flaw besides whiskers in his defensive armor and 
that the hastily adopted first name, Curtis, as the 
last one of his alias. While keen and quick enough 
when it came to swindling others, in this case his 
occultism slipped a cog, so to speak, and left a dan- 
generous similarity of name to anyone who had both 
seen him and heard his original one often enough 
to fix it in mind. He fancied himself secure, how- 
ever, had ample means to live well, also carry out 
any new scheme requiring some investment, and as 
the prosperous capitalist he now practically pro- 
claimed himself to be, was armed and equipped to 
resent any insinuation to the contrary. 

" Money will buy all things — lawyers, juries, 
judges, the whole shooting match," he would say to 
himself reassuringly when a little lurking fear of 
retribution crept into his feelings, as it now and then 
did. " Business is only a game of robbery, high or 
low, and all around, from peanut stands to the 
Standard Oil Tiust. I've got the price of self- 
defense any time, there is no proof of anything 
against me — not even that I was in the cabin the 
night that stupid Swede fell downstairs and 



l84 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



cracked his own skull — so the public, the whole 
push, can go chase themselves for all I care." 

He little thought Nemesis in the guise of his own 
unscrupulous scheming was even now pursuing 
him, with Stacy Whipple adding inspiration. 



''il. 'lVi'.Ai> ., 



CHAPTER XVI 

THE one ruling ambition of Landlord Sam 
Gates's life outside of providing for his 
limited number of guests was to play prac- 
tical jokes, and his keen Yankee shrewdness, knowl- 
edge of human nature, and plausible speech served 
him well at this rather invidious game. Of course 
he had exhausted his possibilities of deceiving any 
of Oakdale' residents long before Stacy was so 
adroitly steered into Bear Hole Swamp, so new- 
comers were all that Sam could vent his peculiar 
talent upon. And so it came to pass that when 
Uncle Levi drove up to Sam's hostelry one after- 
noon just after supper time, and a dapper little dude 
with much-waxed mustache, with cane and small 
suit-case, alighted, Sam eyed him with much the 
same feelings that a hawk would eye a brood of 
young chickens. Business, however, came first 
with Sam, so he at once proceeded to take care of 
so well-dressed an arrival in his most urbane man- 
ner, assigned and showed him to the best front room, 
asked what he'd like cooked for supper, invited him 
to take a nip while waiting for it, and as soon as Mr, 
185 



! riW.^-'ir'V?! 



i86 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



l«!i 



I M 



Leon Otero had been relegated to the care of the 
high priestess of the dining-room, Sam returned to 
the iiiazza and the Old Guard there gatliercd to con- 
sider matters generally. 

" Who is lie ? " queried Bascom, usually the 
spokesman of their retinue. " A drummer? " 

" No-o," drawled Sam, " too slick-lookin', 'n' too 
fussy. Wanted the shutters shut fust thing in his 
room, 'n' a key for the door. Said he didn't like to 
leave his things 'thout bein' locked up. He ain't no 
drummer. They don't wax their mustaches 'n' look 
like they come out o' a bandbox." 

" Fisherman ? " hazarded Lazy Luke, who in- 
variably guessed wrong. " You'll start him into 
B'ar Hole if he is, I s'pose? " 

" Mebbe," returned Sam with a half-smothered 
chuckle at the thought of so alluring a prospect. 
" That is if he's goin' to stay long 'nuff, 'n' kin be 
persuaded." 

And so it came to pass when the new arrival re- 
turned to the piazza, sat down and lighted a ciga- 
rette, there were five there, each ready to cooperate 
to make his visit to Oakdale as pleasant as possible 
— for themselves. 

"Is this your first visit here, Mr. Otero?" in- 
quired Sam politely by way of a beginning. 

" It ees," answered Otero, looking around the 



THE CASTLK BUILDERS 



187 



scattered village, " and a so mitch smaller town than 
I haf heard." 

" Sellin' goods, I s'liose," was the next remark 
of the adroit Sam. 

" No, I haf come on ze business of my company, 
not to sell something." returned Otero evasively. 

" Buyin' land mebbe," persisted Sam unabashed. 
" I heerd some company was plannin' to put up a 
big dam here, 'n' build a shop." 

Then Mr. Leon Otero turned his snaky eves on 
Sam and smiled wisely. " I am not to tell what my 
company haf planned," he answered suavely, " I am 
to look around." 

" O' course ; sartin', sartin'," replied Sam sooth- 
ingly, " only I heerd your company was goin' to buy 
B'ar Hole Swamp, 'n' figgered you was here to do 
it." 

" Ees this swamp you call ze bear's hole ze right 
spot for a dam?" inquired Otero with a satisfied 
smile. 

" None better," asserted Sam, unconsciously play- 
ing Stacy's game. " In fact Natur just riz hills all 
'round it ez ef on purpose fer a dam. That's what 
the other feller who looked it over said, anvhow, 
I s'pose he war from your company, too, eh ? His 
na.ne was Whipple. You know about liini, I 
s'pose? " 



i88 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



" I know him, yes," admitted Otero, smiling 
again, "and I shall look ze swamp over myself. 
Who is it owns ze land ? " 

" Oh, it's Uncle Asa's, Asa Webster's, 'n' he lives 
jist below it on the brook," vouchsafed Sam speed- 
ily, " 'n' I cal'late Iie'd sell it cheap. 'Tain't wuth 
much fer anything but a pond. You want to look 
it over, foller the brook down through," he added 
eagerly, " 'n' mebbe ketch a mess o' trout to-morrer, 
eh ? I kin rig ye up 'n' take ye to the head on't in 
the morniii' if ye like." 

And having thus paved the way for his own pet 
practical joke and almost pushed Otero into the trap 
set for him by Stacy, Sam smiled with serene satis- 
faction. To add more bait for his own trap also, 
h» now began to extol the merits of Bear Hole 
Brook as a trout stream, and to tell what big ones 
were often caught in it, and how Mr. Otero would 
probably enjoy a day of rare sport on the morrow. 

"I liaf not fished for ze trout for many years," 
the victim declared next morning, when duly fitted 
out with a pair of Sam's boots too big for him, and 
a pair of Sam's trousers large enough to turn 
around in, he was conveyed by that worthy to where 
Bear Hole Brook crossed tlie highway above the 
swamp. He still wore his own silk outing shirt, 
jaunty tie, high collar and straw hat, however, and 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



189 



with creel and rod of Sam's lending, it is needless to 
say he presented a ludicrr- " appearance. 

" You've got the greatest day's sport you ever had 
ahead o' ye," Sam novv asserted, turning bi3 horse 
an uiid, " 'n' 'bout four miles on't. You'll find a 
/ rile brush o' course, but don't mind that. Thar's 
whar ye'll find the biggest trout, too. I cal'late 
you'll fill yer basket by noon 'n' then you want ter 
keep right on. Poller the brook 'n' it'll fetch ye 
right out by Uncle Asa's, n' then ye kin dicker with 
him 'bout buyin' the bwamp fer a pond, if that's yer 
errand here. I s'pose the other feller's kinder 
paved the way fer the deal, mebbe? Uncle Asa's 
got a darter, too, perty gal, she is, ez anywhere 
about, 'n' ef ye 'iiake good time 'long the brook 
she'll cook ye a mess o' trout fer dinner if ye' re 
kinder slick at coaxin'. She's sweeter'n peaches 'n' 
cream, too, she is, 'n' ain't got no beau." And 
having thus baited and opened his own trap most 
eflFectually, Sam drove away leaving Otero to his 
fate. 

Once well away and out of sight around a bend 
in the road, however, Sam exploded in a burst of 
laughter. 

" Got him hooked good 'n' fast, I cal'late." he ex- 
claimed, shaking with its continuation. " 'n' when 
he gits down whar them Moliawk briars is tliickest 



190 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 




'n' black flics busy — wal, if he's got any cuss words, 
thar'll be suthiii said." 

Then, and still chuckling with suppressed laugh- 
ter, he drove on. 

It was seven A. M. of that hot July t morning, 
when Mr. Leon Otero, half of him looriing the im- 
maculate dude with legs in two bags, jointed his 
rod, biitcd his hook, lit a cigarette, an(' plunged into 
this almost impassable swainp. It was five P. M. 
when that same occult schemer and wily villain 
emerged from this morass, both boots left buried 
in some slough hole, his bag-like paiits torn and 
black with mud, his silk shirt in shreds, collar, tie, 
and hat missing, and creel and rod left somewhep 
in the swamp. One eye was closed from the stir 
of a hornet, his face, neck, and hands black from 
swamp mire or streaked with bloody scra*"hes, also 
swollen from thousands of vicious black-fly bites, 
and he was barely able to crawl. He had lost all 
points of the compass after fo' nving the winding 
stream a half-milL nd not dariiig to leave it, con- 
scious of being turned around, had kept on, sure 
that the only way of escaping the swamp alive was 
to stick to the stream. 

" I vas 'most dead, my God, sir ! ' he exclaimed, 
finally emerging from the pit:e thicket and finding 
Uncle Asa raking hay on a hill-side meadow. " Oh, 




•Zk AWKII. TIMK AS SKVKIt Wf.'—Piiyc 191. 



B 



.S;,^Hi< i 



rii' 

'I' 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



191 



I haf had ze one hell time to git out ze swamp, sir," 
he moaned, now sinking to earth, exhausted, " ze 
awful time as never vas." 

" Wal, ye look the part," ejaculated Uncle Asa, 
eyeing him keenly and instantly conscious that this 
dapper, woe-begone specimen of humanity was tlie 
man he had been anxiously awaiting now for five 
days. " Been through B'ar Hole Swamp, I cal'- 
late," he added. " Who might ye be? " 

" My name is Otero," Sam's victim responded 
weakly, " and you vas ze man ze landlord call Uncle 
Asa, vas you ? " 

" Yaas, that's me," drawled Uncle Asa, now on 
guard and beginning to rake hay again as if the 
arrival of this fellow was of no interest. He kept 
on raking, too, a few rods, and then Otero called to 
him again. 

" I am so tired I cannot walk back to ze hotel," 
he said meekly, " and I vill pay you if you vill take 
me back. Vill you ? " 

Then Uncle Asa halted his raking and looked 
back at Otero hesitatingly. He knew his errand 
here, knew also that Sam had sent him into Boar 
Hole Swamp — his inevitable joke on all strangers 
— but now, nervous as he was over what this fel- 
low's errand meant to him, the joke lost its point. 

" I dunno but I might," he admitted finally, now 



,,(l 



192 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



returning to where Otero sat. " It's hayin' titne, 
'n' I'm perty busy, though." 

" I vill pay you, sir," Otero responded still more 
meekly, " pay you veil, only I can't valk no longer 
now." 

Then Uncle Asa, Good Samaritan still, in spite of 
his abhorrence of this trickster, as he knew him to 
be, invited him down to the house and gave him 
opportunity to w jh his mud-blackened face and 
hands, harnessed his horse, and conveyed him back 
to the village. 

" How much I do owe you ? " Otero queried 
when they drew up at the hotel. 

" Not a cent," Uncle Asa responded. " I jest 
fetched ye back out o' pity fer a feller ez badly 
busted ez you war." 

" I am to come and see you to-morrow," Otero 
responded, after thanking Uncle Asa. " It ees to 
talk business." 

"What business?" demanded Uncle Asa. "I 
am too busy hayin' to talk much with anybody." 

" Why, I vish to buy some land of you," returned 
Otero meekly still. " Perhaps I buy ze tarn swamp 
that so near killed me to-day." 

" Wal, ye needn't come on that 'count," returned 
Uncle Asa brusquely. " 'Taint fer sale or rather 
thar's 'nother feller ez hez got a call on't." Then 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



193 



having thus taken trick number one in the game of 
diamond-cut-diamond, he halted his nag with an 
out-turned wheel and awaited his passenger's 
alighting. 

" But I vill come to see you," reiterated Otero 
after stepping out. And then, without a word of 
response, Uncle Asa drove away fully conscious he 
had his enemy at bay, at least. 

" I'll give Sam a slap on the back fer playin' B'ar 
Hole on that little cuss," he ejaculated when well 
away from the hotel. "It sarved him right, the 
hyena." 

" Wal, whar's my basket 'n' boots 'n' fish pole? " 
demanded Sam with well-simulated severity a mo- 
ment later as Otero limped up the piazza. " Ye 
look's though ye'd bin run through a threshin' ma- 
chine 'n' chucked in a mud hole arter that. Did — 
did ye ketch any trout? " 

Then Leon Otero, the foppish little Iviexican, 
conscious of his own ridiculous appearance, and 
seeing from the broad grins low spreading over 
Sam's and the Old Guard's faces that he had been 
made the target of a practical joke, grew pale with 
suppressed anger, while his snaky eyes glittered. 

" Sacre, what you t'ink, I one tam fool to be sport 
for you ? I — I could kill you ! " he snarled. Then 
vanished inside and up to his room. 



194 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



He appeared a half hour later (most of which 
had been spent by Sam in suppressing his laughter), 
looking more presentable, also in better temper. 
And then Sam, having enjoyed his joke thoroughly, 
set about mollifying his guest. 

" I was afeared you mightn't bring back much of 
a string," he said sootningly and suppressing his 
inward laughter, " so I sent one o' the boys out to 
ketch some, 'n' I've got a nice mess cooked fer ye. 
A joke's a joke, so come into the barroom 'n' hev a 
drink on me, 'n' call it square. I won't charge ye 
nothin' fer the boots 'n' fishin' tackle ye left in the 
swamp. How'd ye come to lose 'em?" Then, 
and unable to restrain his merriment longer, he 
burst into laughter again. 

" B'ar Hole is a perty tufif spot," he added a mo- 
ment later, setting an array of bottles out upon the 
bar counter, " 'n' we alius interduce it ez one o' the 
pints o' int'rest here to newcomers. I did to your 
partner — I s'pose — the otlier feller who come to 
look things over, 'n' he come out head up ; worrit 
some but smilin'." Then, having thus established 
peace and ushered his guest into the dining-room, 
he returned to the piazza. 

" That little cuss takes a joke 'bout ez a boy does 
pepper tea," he now asserted to the Old Guard 
awaiting him, and laughing again. " I'm out a pair 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



I9S 



o' boots 'n' fishin' tackle, but 'twas wuth it, by 
gosh," and he shook with another spasm of laugh- 
ter. " I'd a gin a fiver on top o' the boots to 'a' 
seen him 'bout the time he got out," he added, " 'n' 
to 'a' heard him cuss. I cal'Iate them little Spanish 
fellers kin cuss some when they git started, too." 

Mr. Leon Otero did not favor Sam and the Old 
Guard with much of his company that evening, 
however, for though mollified by the drink, and 
excellent supper of fried trout and strawberries, his 
pride had received a painful wound and he nursed it 
in his room with continuous cigarettes. He was, 
however, sure that this hill-bordered swamp he had 
flcundered through was the dam site Bemis, Colby 
& Company wanted, that a minimum offer for it 
had been made to the farmer who owned it, and 
that he was in ample time to obtain possession, and 
make them pay smartly later on. 

The one fortuitous feature of this game was that 
the stage driver, accepting Stacy's hints as facts, 
had talked of nothing else except the plan to buy 
Bear Hole Swamp by someone; Sam, an.xious to 
play his joke, had forgotten to mention Rocky Glen 
brook, so Otero had no knowledge of its existence. 
The next morning, well-garbed and serene once 
more, he started for Uncle Asa's. 






fi; • 



CHAPTER XVII 

WIILE Uncle Asa had feared himself un- 
able to cope with this emissary of that 
arch-swindler, Curtis North, his first 
meeting with him, so mud-splashed and woe-begone 
from an all-day contest with Bear Hole Swamp, had 
assured him he was only an ordinary mortal, an 
unscrupulous thief no doubt, yet not one to be 
ffared in the open, or in a contest of bargain- 
making. Uncle Asa's over-night preparation also 
stood him in hand, so he resolved and felt that he 
could be, as he would put it, " independent as a pig 
on ice." 

He trusted Stacy, too, especially after what had 
passed between them, trusted his good sense and 
judgment also, and felt that his measure of this 
Curtis North and what his tool, Otero, would say 
and do, also pay for Bear Hole Swamp, was an 
accurate one. And so it came to pass that July 
morning when he, swinging his scythe in a meadow 
below the house and alongside the lane, saw Otero 
turn into it, leap the fence and advance to him, 
196 



I 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 197 

Uncle Asa was well prepared for the bargain- 
driving contest now at hand. 

He halted his scythe-swinging a- Otero neared 
him, looked up, nodded, said " Good mornin' " in 
chilly tone, and awaited developments. 

"I haf come to see you as I said I vould, Mr. 
Vebster," Otero asserted after his return "Good 
morning " and obsequious bow, " and to make vith 
you a price on zat swamp you call ze bear's hole 
if you vill sell it." 

" Want to live thar, do ye? " returned Uncle Asa, 
grinning, as he thrust the end of the snath into the 
soil and leaned upon his scythe. "I should a 
thought ye'd got 'nuff o' that tangle-hole yisterday ; 
ye looked like it anyhow." 

"Oh, I did, it ees a tam hole," asserted Otero 
with a shrug. " An' ze flies, ze brambles, an' ze 
mud eat me up." 

" 'N' ye want to buy it, eh ? " grunterf Uncle Asa 
half scornfully. " Yew can't be right in your attic, 
yew want a keeper put over ye, yew do ! " 

"But I vill buy it if you make ze price low, it 
ees of no value I vas sure, a tam mud hole." 

"Wuss'n that," grinned Uncle Asa. "Thar's 
snakes in it, too, red adders 'n' rattlers, hundreds 
on 'em. I can't see how ye missed gittin' bit, must 



;a 



198 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



jt 



m 
m 



be they didn't like the loolcs o' ye ; snakes air kinder 
p'ticular, though, sometimes." 

" An' you t'ink zey no bite me for zat reason? " 
responded Otero, trying to smile while his eyes 
snapped. 

" I didn't say so," drawled Uncle Asa, " only 
snakes is perty cunnin' critters, 'n' 1 never knowed 
o' their bitin' one 'nother." 

For a long moment the glint in Otero's eyes de- 
noted anger at this sarcasm, then he conquered it. 
" Vill you set a price on ze swamp an' woods be- 
low?" he isked almost haughtily. "I haf come 
here to buy it." 

" Wal, then ye kin hike right away on the next 
train," returned Uncle Asa sharply, " fer 'tain't fer 
sale, not a foot on't, not even a snake." 

" But you vill sell it at some price, von't you? " 
queried Otero, anxiously. 

" Wal, yaas, I'll take a million dollars fer't," 
drawled Uncle Asa, grasping his scythe again. 
" Fetch me that in real money, 'n' I'll talk with ye. 
I hain't time now." 

Then Otero experienced a sense of being thrown 
against a brick wall, for he had not planned on any 
such reception. He was also smarting from Uncle 
Asa's sarcastic shots about snakes, and, all in all, 
was decidedly nonplussed and rapidly gettin.'- - 'gry. 



1h 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 199 

And when a bargain-driving man so loses himself, 
he is gone. 

" I haf come to buy zat swamp at a fair price," 
tliis one now reiterated crustily, " an' I viU gif you 
five t'ousand dollars for it all, an' ze wood land 
below, all of it." 

" 'N' I'll take forty thousand, 'n' throw in the 
snakes," returned Uncle Asa as sharply, " so put that 
in yer pipe 'n' smoke it. I hain't time to swap guflf 
with ye. I've got mowin' ter do," and Uncle Asa 
began to 3wing his scythe again. 

Tlien Otero, exasperated by this farmer's sar- 
casms and discomfited by his blunt refusals to con- 
sider wliat he thought an exorbitant price for the 
swamp, began to take counsel with himself, sure 
also that a much higher bid than his had been made 
by the other parties, or else the swamp actually 
bought by them. But he had come with positive 
orders frotn his backer to buy, had brought ten 
thousand dollars in large bills with him, and the 
" Old Rube," as he thought Uncle Asa to be, who 
held the key to this game of extortion, was now 
two rods away, and swinging his scythe as if his 
customer were of no more account than a snake 
in this horrible swamp. And the more Otero, the 
vain fop and sliarper combined, dwelt on Uncle 
Asa's insolent references to snakes, the more ano-rv 



30O 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 




he grew. But he was wise enough to conceal it 
now. 

" I vill make you one more offer," he said, now 
following after Uncle Asa, " I gif you six t'ou- 
sand for ze swamp." 

" Nary six fer me, nothin' doin'," returned Uncle 
Asa exasperatingly, as he kept on mowing. 

"I vill make it seven thtn? " 

" Nix," with a shake of the head. 

"I vill say eight then. Vill you take that?" 

" No, I won't," snapped Uncle Asa, now halting 
and facing around, sure he had the game won. 

" Vill you name a price you vill take ? " came 
from Otero, almost desperate now. " Some price 
in reason? " 

Then Uncle Asa glanced up and down the five- 
foot or a trifle more of snake-eyed, wax-mustached 
fop before him contemptuously. " Ef you 11 
promise never to set foot in this 'ere town agin," 
he drawled slowly, " I'll set a price fer the swamp 
'n' wood lot below it, cash down, real money, no 
checks, 'n' ef ye don't take it right off the spot, I'll 
run ye off my land 'fore ye kin say boo! I won't 
dicker with ye a minute! " 

"Veil, vat is it?" came from Otero, while his 
eyes glittered at the insult. 

" It's nine thousand five hundred, and not a dern 



Stti^H^yHHfSSE.' ' **' 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



301 



n say yes now 



cent less," came from Uncle Asa, 
or git ! " 

"I vill gif it when you hand me ze deed re- 
corded," snarled Otero. 

"I'll meet ye at Squire Phinne>'s in jist two 
hours all ready," admitted Uncle Asa, then turned 
and swung his scythe again as if this bargain was 
no more to him than the sale of a load of hay. 

And Otero, the dapper little dude and snake in 
the grass, turned and left him, feeling himself to be 
about what he was, though angry all over. 
Through all his various and very crooked career 
so far, he had never been so humiliated or insulted 
as now, and the very recent trick of Sam's was a 
part of the combined outrage. 

When once well out of sight. Uncle Asa, who had 
covertly watched Otero depart, now threw his scythe 
aside, and made a bee-line for the house. 

Someone else, no less a person than Hazel, had 
also been watching this imerview from an ambush, 
and met him as he leaped over the lane fence. 

" What is that little puppy back here again for? " 
she demanded anxiously. " for I know it's the same 
chap you took up to the village yesterdav. OIi, 
father, there is some trick being played on you I 
am sure ! " 

Then Uncle Asa gave the much-worried Hazel 



m 



aoa 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



another cxiiibitioii of emotional insanity, for he 
grasped licr and threw her up on his slioulders, 
gave a hop, skip, and jump, tlien lowered the 
struggling form, kissed her face hit or miss four 
times, and set her down. 

" Kingdom's 'most come," he almost shouted. 
" Don't say a word to Martha. Keep mum. I'm 
goin' to the village, 'n' want ye to meet me half way 
thar jist two hours from now on the sly, 'n' keep 
whist all the time." Tlien he hurried into the 
house, up to his room, inilockcd an ancient oak 
chest, found the original deed of the Bear Hole 
Swamp land, put on a clean shirt, and hastened 
away to the village. He set the squire at work 
fdling out a deed to Mr. Leon Otero, residence 
blank, sutnmoned Sam for witness to iiis > .'n sig- 
nature (forgetting th.it his wife must also sign with 
him), made both Sam and Squire Phinney swear to 
inviolate secrecy regarding this important act, and 
by the time Otero apjiearcd a half-hour later, the 
deed that was to play ;-.o peculiar and far-reaching 
a part in Oakdale's history, also of the heart annals 
of Miss Hazel Wcljster, was ready for him. And 
so anxious was he, apparently, to get the business 
consummated and depart, the wily Otero never no- 
ticed tliat Mrs. Asa Webster's signature was missing. 
The nionev, all in fiflv and one hundred dollar 



THE CASTL,; BUlLDL'kS 



203 



bills, was counted both by the Squire and Uncle 
Asa: as a matter of ordinary pohtcticss they all 
shook Iiauds witli Otero, and he hastened across the 
street to the hotel. 

And this brief but exciting visit to Oakdale was 
the first and last one ever made by him 1 

" 1 (e's got Uncle Levi to take him up to tlie 
noon train west," Sam stated after Otero li;id left 
the Squire's office. " The little cuss don't jist like 
our sort o' folks, I cal'late." 

" Nor B'ar Hole Swamp either I guess," added 
Uncle Asa. " He war the wust busted pup I ever 
seen when he fetched out on't yesterday, tlianks to 
you, Sam." 

" Wal, the feller was puttin' on too many airs, 
'n' lookin' too slick to suit me," returned Sam, " so 
I jist thought I'd gin him the Entered Apprentice 
degree, 'n' take him down a trifTul. liut what the 
devil docs he want o' P.'ar Hole Swamp, 'n' liow'd 
ye make liim pay sich an ungodly price. Uncle Asa ? 
'Twas 'most highway robbery ! " 

Then Uncle Asa looked at Sam while a broad 
grin spread over his face. 

" Thar's a woodchuck in the haymow, Sam." he 
said slowly, " 'n' I've got liolt o' his hind leg. 
Thar's suthin else I got holt on, Sam," he continued, 
smiling even m.ore. " Jist vou ''o over 'n' fotch m? 






204 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 




that sartificate o' mining stock you've got framed 
'11' I'll gin ye zackly five hundred for't now" 

" No, I won't, Uncle Asa," Sara answered 
bluntly, " fer it looks like the mine's struck it rich 
'n' I'll keep the stock." 

" All ofif, nothin' doin' then," returned Uncle Asa, 
laughing heartily. " Oflfer's only good this minute, 
not to-morrer." 

Much more of this cheerful badinage was ex- 
changed between these three old cronies, then after 
waiting until he saw Otero depart so that he couldn't 
be waylaid by him when homeward bound. Uncle 
Asa left the village. Half way home, and as he ex- 
pected, he found Hazel awaiting him beneath a 
roadside apple tree. 

"Hooray, girlie, hooray, hooray!" he shouted, 
now running up and enclosing her in his arms. 
" Kingdom's come, 'n' I've got the mont-y ! It's 
yours, every cent on't, nine thousand dollars, 'n' it's 
goin' into the Rarre bank to-morrow, hooray! 
Come kiss your old fool dad jist once now! " 

Then and after this unique exhibition of feeling, 
he drew the roll of bills from beneath his shirt, 
handed it to Hazel, choked, bit his lips, turned away, 
and two tears stole down his wrinkled face. 

"I'm a derned old fool, ain't I. Hazel?" he 
added, now laughing again. " But I was 'nufT fer 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



205 



(hat litlle wen":! '^iit larkled me this mornin', 'n' 
— 'n' tlie mar. iliiit seM y:y. the books 'n' you've 
been skcered o riii'Iongpii up the job to save your 
money by scllin i) ai lio'^; Swamp to that little rat 
you vvfatched with me. Thar now, will ye b'lieve 
he's wuth trustin', or won't ye?" 

" I'll believe anything to see you so happy, 
father," came from Hazel, embracing and kissing 
him again. Then she, too, began to laugh with wet 
eyes. 

And now the feminine sex asserted itself. 

" Is — is that Mr. Whipple coming to Oakdale 
soon, do you know, father ? " 

" I dunno's he'll ever come agin," answered her 
father vaguely. " If I'd ben treated by a gal ez you 
did him I wouldn't chase her 'nother rod. I don't 
much think you'll ever set eyes on him agin." 

" Then what you said about his admiring me must 
be all nonsense," the keen-witted girl returned, " or 
else he will come again. Any man worth thinking 
twice about can't be choked off by one rebuff. And 
I didn't repulse him: was just cool, that's all." 

" Wuss'n that, jist turned your back on him that 
day down to the shore 'n' let him whistle fer com- 
pany while ye gals cut sticks," asserted her father, 
smiling at his well beloved and only child. " I 
watched ye from out pullin' pots. But I ain't wor- 



>j. 






■i 



206 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



ryin' 'bout him a minute," he added after a pause. 
" That feller don't need no keeper over him ez you 
thought I did. His head's level, you kin bet, 'n' he 
ain't a mite skeered o' little gal like yew, he ain't. 
'N' now, Hazel, let's set down 'n' count that roll o' 
money, you 'n' L I want the comfort of fingerin' 
Kingdom Come jist once more, slow 'n' easy." 

Then down under the apple tree he squatted with 
Hazel beside him to enjoy what he never had before 
in his life, and never expected to enjoy again — the 
counting of so tnuch money all by hiinself, slowly, 
and to enjoy the sensation. 

" I lliink I did a perty slick trick to make that 
snaky little Mexican gin up so much," he asserted 
after the counting, " 'n' I tucked on five hundred 
jist to square Sam for his mine stock. Also as pay 
for sencliu' this chap into the swamp ez Sam did. 
It tuckered the cuss out, 'n' gin me the nicest sort 
o' chance to sass him. 'n' I did, too! Hain't had so 
much fun since I had the measles." And Uncle 
Asa laughed again in boyish enjoyment of his meet- 
ing with and getting the better of Otero. 

" Mr. Wliipple put the job up," he continued 
after this. "War doin' it the day that popinjay 
friend o' yours from Barre saw him, when he come 
here agin, and chased me down to the shore, 'n' 




m.'Smtir'jw^i^^irmK<3Km 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 207 

'splaincd ji?t how this Otero ud show up, 'n' how 
to tackle him. 

" 'N' now," he added, watching Hazel's face 
sharply, " Mr. W'liipplc's gone out West whar In- 
juns is thicker'n flies in Bar Hole Swamp, 'n' most 
likely he'll get scalped. I don't s'pose you care 
though." 

Then Hazel glanced at her father's impassive face 
while a new sensation tingled in her feelings, for 
she read his thoughts like an open book. 

" I am sorry I mistrusted him," she answered de- 
murely. " I will tell him so, too, when he comes 
again, and — and I understand you hope he will 
ask me to marry him, father? " 

" Not less you like him 'nuff to go barefoot if 
he asks y , sjirlie," returned her father soberly. 
"Gittin' r, is the whole o' your life, Hazel, 

'n' till one ^r t'other is laid away, 'n' ye must go 
keerful. mighty keerful, I tell ye. I hke Mr. 
Whipple. I did the fust go off, 'n' he's proved him- 
self sijuare's a brick. It's up to you, though, 
whether you like him or not. All I kin tell ye is lie 
said he'd walk a good many miles jist to win one o' 
your smiles, 'n' said it outcn his heart, too." 

Then Hazel grew rose-red again for somehow 
this man's eyes had haunted her for many days. 



Ill 






■-^'•i-*''*-. *<S«/' 



irnr^ 






208 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



I 



" I ain't goin' to worry a mite 'bout you two," 
Uncle Asa continued, smiling at the telltale color 
on Hazel's face. " Only jist 'bout this money now. 
It'll stay next to my skin till I git to Barre to- 
morrow, 'n' then it goes into the bank in your 
name. I'd go to-night, oily the bank's closed when 
I git thar. I don't think I'll sleep a wink till it's 
in the bank, though. Now, let's go home." 

Once there, and acting nervously, as he now did, 
it was not long ere Martha's suspicions were aroused 
by both his and Hazel's peculiar conduct and she 
began to question first Hazel, then Hazel's tather. 
From the former she obtained no satisfaction, liow- 
ever, as might be expected, and not until evening 
was any obtained from Uncle Asa. 

" You are keeping something froni me, Asa," she 
demanded of him rather tartly when the chance 
came and Hazei away, "and now I mean to know 
what it is! What was that little man here for 
this morning, and why did you change your siiirt 
'n' hurry up to the village right after him, I want 
to know? And Hazel, too, after you, 'n' gone 
'most tlvee hours! What have you been doing? 
T'-e a right to know, 'n' I want to know now ! " 

Tiien Uncle Asa looked a;: his much-disliked bet- 
ter half, calmly and serenely. 

" I had business with that man," he explained 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 209 

slowly, " 'n' went up town to git paid some money 
he owed me. that's all." 

"How much?" demanded Martha in rasping 
voice. 

"Oh, a few thousand dollars," answered Uncle 
Asa, a queer suspicion flashing into his mind. 
" Why do ye want to know, Martha ? " 

" And you've got it with ye ? " 

" Sartin, 'n' mean to keep it with me, too, till 
I go to Barre to-morrow." 

"No, ;-3u won't, Asa Webster," replied his 
spouse viciously, "nothing of the sort! Some- 
body '11 break into the house 'n' rob you to-night if 
you do! " 

"What'Il I do with it then?" returned Uncle 
Asa, calmly scanning her face. 

"Why, hide it, of course, where I hide money 
when we leave the house — under that loose brick 
in the front-room fireplace," almost commanded 
Martha, " then it'll be safe." 

And then the sinister suspicion in Uncle Asa's 
mind became almost a certainty. 

" I'll do it, Martha," he answered meekly, " do 
it jist to please ye, the last thing 'fore I go to bed. 
It'll be safe 'nuff on me till then, I cal'late." 

And that evening, sitting along on the embowered 
front porch and smoking his cob pipe, as was his 



210 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



—•Hi: 1' 



custom summer evenings, back to him came tiie 
evil lool< that he had detected in Manila's eyes wrhen 
admitting he had so large a sum of money. He 
also recalled her miserly ways during tlie few years 
of their life together, her reputation previously, how 
every dollar given her by him or taken in from sale 
of eggs, poultry, or anything, vanished like water in 
sand and nothing to show for it ; how their table 
was scrimped to the most meager of food. Hazel's 
board payments also disappearing the same way, 
and many other suspicious occurrences. 

" I don't like that sharky look," he muttered 
softly to himself now. " Thar's suthin brewin', 
that's sartin! You're cal'latin' to git holt o' that 
money, Martha Baker!" So disturbing was this 
suspicion, he arose suddenly and started down the 
lane. At its foot and out of sight from his house, 
he halted and glanced up at the starlit sky. 

" Curis, curis," he said to himself again, " how 
the love o' moiiey'll make thieves 'n' lunatics, 'most, 
out o' folks. I hate to b'lieve it o' you, Martlia, but 
you're plannin' to steal, my God, you be, 'n' it's 
the end o' you 'n' I! The end, the end! Mebbe 
it's better so, too, fcr Hazel! It's been hell for her 
all 'long, 'n' I slia'n't miss ye, not a minute ! " 

Then, overwrought with the shameful horror 
of what he now believed, a cold sweat moistened his 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



face and hands; he started rapidly across the 
meadow to his boatliouse, lit a small lamp he kept 
there, cut a few dozen strips of brown paper the size 
of bills, roiled them up, put a ten-dollar one on the 
outside, tied the roll with a bit of fish line, and re- 
turned to the lane. 

At its foot, and much to his joy, he met Hazel. 

" Thank God ye come out, girlie," he whispered 
with trembling voice and grasping her arm. " I 
war so wantin' to see ye 'lone." 

"Why, what is it, father?" she asked in quiv- 
ering tones. " What has happened ? " 

" Suthin horrible," he whispered back, " but I've 
got to b'lieve it, 'n' prove it too! Martha wants me 
to hide that money in the front-room fireplace 'n' 
to-night — sometime — she's goin' to steal it. 
Now don't say .1 word ! I've got a roll o" paper 'n' 
bill outside fixed up ; I'm goin' to hide it under the 
loose brick she wants me to. Jist you come to 
my room in your stockiu's arter she's gone to bed, 
'n' wait 'n' listen with me. When she thinks I'm 
asleep, she'll go down the back stairs, I ligger — 
they're furtherest away from my room — 'n' then 
you 'n' I'll come to the top o' the front ones 'n' 
listen. All I want is proof she's become a thief, 'n' 
that's the end o' her 'n' I." 

Then, without a word of reply to tin's shame- 



^^1 



r 






313 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 




ful but probable supposition, Ila/el wound her arms 
around her father's neck and kissed him. They 
were as one now in wish, spirit, and mutual humilia- 
tion. 

She kept hold of his hand, too, as they walked 
up the lane and found Martha on the porch await- 
ing them. 

" Whar you ben ? " she almost demanded as 
Uncle .\sa came first up the steps. 

" I've ben worryin' 'bout what you said 'bout that 
money," he answered calmly, " 'n' took a walk to 
look 'round. I guess I'd b'jst do ez you say, 'n' hide 
it in the fireplace. It's gittin' 'most bedtime, 'n' I'll 
do it now." And without more words he went in- 
side. 

Martha also followed him in, watched him put 
the bogus roll of money under the loose brick, re- 
turn the firedogs into place again, and pile the 
white birch wood upon them as before. 

And so another trap was set — this time to catch 
one whose detection was to cost more in shame an;' 
humiliation than all the money meant to Uncle Asa. 

He locked the door as Hazel came in, drew a 
heavy settle in front of it, saw that the windows 
were fastened, went out and locked the two kitchen 
doors, then the three ascended the front stairs in 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 213 

Indian file and separated with the usual " Good- 
nights." 

An hour later, in loose wrapper and stockinged 
feet, Hazel tiptoed softly into her father's room, 
closed the ooor to a quarter-inch crack, and sat 
down beside it listening. 

This expected denouement or exposure meant 
more to her than to her father ! 

One hour, two hours, seemingly, passed to that 
listening, also keenly humiliated father and 
daughter, then Hazel's acute young ears caught the 
faint creak of an opened door, one, two, three les- 
-ser ones from the back stairs, and then only the 
slow solemn " tick, tock " of the tall clock in the 
parlor below. 

And never afterwards in her life did she listen 
to that slow-beating monitor of time in the stilly 
m'ght without recalling this crucial moment ! 

Five minute.',, each a seeming hour long, passed, 
then up from the parlor came a faint pat as the 
sticks of wood in the fireplace were taken out and 
laid down. Then Hazel arose and beckoned to her 
father, barely visible by the window. He shook 
his head, however, then motioned her to go out 
alone. 

Very gently now Hazel drew the door open, 



214 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



like a cat she crept to the carpeted front stairs, down 
them to tlie open parlor door, and there, barely 
outlined hy the star li(,'ht, she saw Martha kneeling 
in front of the fireplace! 

She next saw her lift the loose brick, seize the 
roll of money-covered paper, and begin the re- 
turning of the white birch sticks to place on the 
firedogs. 

Then Hazel, thus convinced that her hated step- 
mother was a thief, with every nerve in her body 
quivering from the horror of it and all it meant, 
crept hack to her father', room, whispered, " I saw 
hei t . • it," kissed him, and then, overcome b;- the 
strain of this tragedy, she sank to the floor at his 
feet — solibing. 

Up from the hall below and now sounding to 
Uncle Asa like " Nevermore — nevermore — never- 
more," came the slow, solemn clock beats. 

And so it was to his life with the now despicable 
Martha, for he never saw her again. 




SlIK HAW MaKTIIA KNKKMNO IN FRONT HF THK FlKKl'l.AL K. 

Pt^v 214. 



w 



in 



PST':] 



CHAPTER XVIII 

1AHK gray Iif;lit of coming morn wvns at hand 
when Haztl felt herself wakened hy her 
father's touch, and saw him dressed in his 
best, with hat on and boots in hand, beside her 
bed. 

" Here's a paper to give to Martha when she gits 
up," he whispered, liaii<ling it to her as slie rose 
up. " I'm goin to Bar' ■ now. I'll git bacls by 
middle o' the arternoon 'n go to my boathouse. Ef 
Martha's here, then yew be thar by three o'clock. 
Kf you ain't, I'll know she's gone, 'n' come ir> the 
house. You kin read the paper arter I'm f: ne." 
Then he stooped, kis.sed Hazel's forehead, and with- 
'Mit another word tiptoed out and down the .stairs. 

\nd Hazel, watching, saw him go to the barn, 
emerge with the harnessed horse, attach him to 
their light buggy, put a gun in, and drive away. 
Then she read the note she held. It was brief and 
to the point like all of Uncle Asa's utterances, and 
said : — 

" Martha, you and I can't Vwe under the .s.qme 



^1^- 



2l6 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



roof no longer. You can go to your sister's in 
Goshen or where you choose. I shall have the 
farm apprized and send you one-third of that. If 
this don't satisfy you, take the law on me. Asa 
Webster." 

Hazel, too, had her own sense of pride and as all 
the years while this woman had been hateful to her 
now returned to add abhorrence of this act of theft, 
as her father would say, " her dander riz," and with 
it a determination to mete out a little vengeance on 
personal account. 

No one else was astir in the house as yet, and 
whether Martha had discovered how she had been 
trapped was also unknown to Hazel. Neither did 
she care. The intended theft had been committed, 
and its criminality and despicable meanness was just 
as great in Hazel's mind as if all the money had 
been stolen. 

Only for a few moments did Hazel now con- 
sider how she could best humiliate this shameless 
woman, then wrote on a slip of paper: — 



iU\\^', 



" I hope I shall never be obliged to set eyes on 
you again. You can take your two boys and all 
personal things belonging to you, and the sooner 
you go the better. You can also explain why you 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 317 

go in any way you please. I don't expect you will 
tell the truth. If you do not leave town before 
noon I believe father will have you arrested. I saw 
you steal the money. Hazel." 



Then Hazel dressed, pinned the two notes to- 
gether, locked the door of her own room, left the 
double message on the dining-room table where 
Martha must surely find it, and stole out of the 
house just as the sun peeped over the hilltops. 

It had been a night and an experience so abhor- 
rent and so humiliating that it seemed as if she had 
grown years older during that ten hours' lapse of 
time. 

Once well away from the house, or at the foot 
of the lane she paused to consider what to do next, 
and just now, also, it seemed as if a great load had 
been lifted from her soul. Here, too, and for the 
first time since awakened by her father, she began 
to realize that it was morning, that the brook close 
by was chattering away as usual, the birds piping 
their morning welcome to the rising sun from all 
about, and quite unconscious of the horrible hap- 
pening. A crisp sea breeze blow up from the salt 
marsh. A bobolink rose from a thicket of ferns 
just across the main road, circled around, then lit 
on the tip of a tree limb and began its wondrously 



1:^ 



2l8 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



sweet song. Nature was still existent. God still 
ruled the Universe! 

With this impress of morning and the birth of a 
new day, Hazel's spirits began to catch the bobolink's 
note, and she to see anotlier and brighter future just 
ahead with the deep and abiding love of her father 
to bless it. Then, too, as she now started on up the 
road, she began to grow thankful that he was to 
escape the cross he had asked her to help him bear. 
She still had him as he had her, and now their life 
together could be like the song of the brook and the 
birds once more. 

With this rising of her spirits and vision of 
another and happier life, Stacy's face began to 
emerge from forgetfulness, and the part he had 
played in this drama to recur to htr. It had all 
come so suddenly, too; this strange, dapper little 
fellow's appearance and meeting with her father; 
the hilarious conduct over some bargain, the rea- 
son for which she knew not ; his visit to the village 
and return with so great a sum of money, all ob- 
tained through some mysterious influence or aid 
from Stacy. And then the end of that night of sus- 
pense I 

And now, too, her own conduct and distrust of 
Stacy, also lack of faith in her father's opinion 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



219 



of him, returned to her. And what was the mean- 
ing of his sudden and unusual interest in her father? 
Was it but a means to an end, and her good will, 
her favor, and herself eventually; or that end an 
ultimatum? For tliis busy business man so to plot 
and plan to assist her father from pure philanthropy 
seemed almost impossible, and from what her father 
had asserted that this bold fellow had said and 
thought of her, there could be but one conclusion, 
which was that she was the magnet that had drawn 
his aid and interest. 

And then what meant the boolts and music sent 
her without even his card? 

And just now, with the pulse of young life within 
her, and sure that this imperious young man meant 
to win her if he could, meant to say to her " I want 
}ou, body and soul," Hazel began to feel herself 
blush, while every nerve tingled. 

Then a sense of rebellion at all this encom- 
passing of plot and plan to win her favor, now 
followed. She was not for sale! No favors 
shown her father or aid to him could avail in 
this capture of herself, if captured she was! 
Though loving her fatlier devotedly and ready to 
make any s.icrifice for him, she was still mistress of 
her own fate and future, and no assertive and bold 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



. i 



t 
i i 

f 



fellow like this Stacy need imagine favors to her 
father could win one iota of love from her! Not 
even an extra heart throb ! 

By this time, she was half way to the village, 
and here on the very hillock where Stacy had 
stood and scanned that hamlet and the opening val- 
ley and vista of ocean beyond, while building his air 
castle of a future city, Hazel now paused to con- 
sider her own immediate plans ; also to realize that 
she was hungry. To go on to Molly Bascom's and 
be welcomed to breakfast there was the easiest thing 
possible, but what excuse was there for it, and how 
could she explain so unusual an act? Some expla- 
nation of what was to happen at home must be 
made to her friends in the near future, yet Hazel 
dared not decide upon one without consulting her 
father. 

" I've run away from home, Molly," she said 
laughingly to that chum when her home was 
reached. " Had a spat with Martha — you know 
how I adore her — and so ran away for a few 
hours. Don't ask me a word about it ! I just want 
breakfast, tlien I'm going to walk my mad fit off, 
and go home again ! " 

And true to the schoolmate bond of friendship be- 
tween these two, Hazel obtained her needed morn- 
ing meal, passed a couple of hours with the 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



vivacious Molly, and then departed to walk off her 
supposed anger. 

" I hope father will be willing to have the truth 
told," she said to herself, when well away from the 
Bascotn home, " and yet perhaps it's best not to do 
so. 

And now how to pass this tiitie until her father's 
return came next for consideration. It was now 
only a little past eight. She knew that he could not 
itave Barre until after the bank opened at nine. It 
would take him certainly three hours with their 
slow horse over the hilly road, and that meant noon 
before he got back. Then, after deciding that she 
would follow the Barre road and meet her father. 
Hazel happened to recall what Stacy had told her 
of the picture of herself on the blackboard of 
her schoolhouse, and straightway decided she had 
ample time to go and expunge it ; also make a guess 
as to what boy was so enamored of her. 

She found the rude drawing still extant where 
Stacy had said it was, and even as he had done, 
so she now sat down, looked long at it, read the 
legend beneath, " My teacher, I love her," then 
laughed heartily. 

" He said it reminded him of his own boyhood 
and a dose of the same first love malady," she now 
said aloud, and then, true to her sex, began to 



M 



III 



I' 



:'!.'-§, ,!'■ 



222 THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

wonder what sort of looking girl this teacher was 
who had captured Stacy's boyish heart, and whether 
he had fully recovered from it or not. 

" It's Schuyler Crowell," she added, now examin- 
ing the scrawled words beneath the picture. "I 
know his ' M ' and ' I ' beyond question," then shook 
with another spasm of laughter at the thought of 
this round-faced, chubby boy of fourteen having 
heart troubles of this nature. She tried also to re- 
call some indications of it in his conduct the previ- 
ous term, and now in the light of this revelation a 
few recurred to her. How quietly studious he had 
appeared the latter part of it How on three Mon- 
day mornings she had found a bunch of arbutus on 
her desk, and wishing to thank the giver of the 
flowers she so prized, was unable to find out who 
brought them. Then, and as a final corroboration, 
she recalled how apparently sorry to have school 
close Schuyler appeared, and instead of trooping 
down with the rest at final dismissal, how he had 
hung around the schoolhouse until she departed 
and then gone his way alone. No thought of this 
peculiar influence had come to her then — now with 
this disclosure it was plain enough; and scanning 
the grotesque drawing once more and thinking ho«- 
this quiet, timid boy had come here to ease his 



■>. il 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



223 



troubled heart in this way, instead of laughing 
again, somehow it almost ^eemcd pathetic. 

A little retrospection of her own life -and its sor- 
rows came next : her mother's death eleven years 
previous, her almost unbearable sense of loss then, 
her father's tears and gloom, his well-meant, per- 
haps, but unfortunate bringing of a stepmother to 
their desolate home, and its unhappy outcome. 
That was past now, even though its ending had 
come through a shameful horror, and she was never 
likely again to look upon this woman she had come 
so to despise. 

And just then, as if to prove that all shame, sor- 
row, and disgrace is but an avenging Nemesis, she 
heard a team nearing the schoolhouse and going to 
the window saw Uncle Levi's carryall, and in it 
Martha and the two boys, evidently being conveyed 
to the depot, and Martha's eyes were red and 
swollen from weeping. 

On this instant, also, a quick pang of regret for 
the sarcastic and quite contemptuous note she had 
addressed to this woman, came to Hazel. It 
couldn't be recalled, however. The blow had been 
dealt to this erring woman whose worst sin was so 
to love money that she would steal it. And this 
was the end. 



'i 






It' 



■M 



224 THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

And just now, also, as the carryall and the de- 
jected and bowed-down face of Martha vanished. 
Hazel felt her own eyes fill. 

" She made me hate her," she asserted finally in 
self-defense, "but"— and biting her lips— "I am 
sorry I wrote the note. Father's was enough." 

A lit!'- longer only she sat there in that lone by- 
way temple -her own kingdom by the roadside 
— then glancing at her watch (once her mother's), 
she saw it was almost eleven, and, forgetting to 
erase her boy admirer's chalk drawing, she hu 'ried 
out, then crossed the village and took the woods- 
bordered road up over the low mountains to Barre. 
She did not now feel afraid of its isolation, or 
the fact that after leaving Oakdale valley not a 
house was to be found alongside it until five miles 
away, and on top of the range stood a charcoal 
burner's hut; for like all country-born girls, byway 
roads, woods-bordered, held no terrors — not even 
of tramps, for few ever came to this hamlet. One 
mile, two miles she trudged onward along this wind- 
mg, up-hill, partially shaded and quite lonely road ■ 
then coming to a kind of canyon with thick over- 
hang where a hillside spring, long trough, and log 
tub ofifered cooling temptation, she paused to drink 
and bathe her face and hands, then to find an avail- 
able seat, and to rest: 



W'^^tfT^^', 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



"5 



" Father must come along soon," she said, con- 
sulting her watch again. " It's almost one, and if 
he started back by half-past nine, he will." 

But another hour passed and no father came. 
Then, so peculiar is solitude that Hazel, a good deal 
unstrung by loss of sleep, shame, sorrow, regret, and 
other unusual happenings, began to lose her courage 
and imagine all sorts of terrors. First, what if 
something had happened to her father? She had 
seen him take his gun, so he must have feared some 
enemy might be met. And such a sum of money, 
too, that he carried — nine thousand, five hundred 
dollars ! Almost enough to tempt an honest man to 
rob, she thought. And what about this Mexican, 
Otero? And why mightn't he have suspected how 
soon and by which way her father would go to put 
so much money in a bank, and plan to meet and 
rob him? 

The bugaboo of imaginary danger once started 
grows fast, and Hazel now, nervous as she was, 
waiting, watching, listening for a coming team and 
hearing none, soon attained a state of mind in 
which she was ready to scream at the sound of a 
squirrel scampering through the undergrowth, or 
the whir of a partridge. Go on, she dared not! 
Return, she would not as yet. so sat in dumb and 
rapidly-increasing distress of mind. 



mw i:* 



226 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



And what a medley of horrible sounds the woods 
now held I A frog croaking in some morass, or a 
squirrel's bark became a hidden human being of 
evil intent, calling to another. The caw of a crow 
was sinister! Even the rustle of leaves in the wind 
sounded ominous! Another half-hour passed, and 
poor Hazel felt faint from mingled suspense and 
dread, then came the distant patter of a horse's 
hoofs, tlie rattle of wheels, and soon from around a 
bend she saw her father nearing. To dart out from 
the bank and run to meet him was her next act. He 
halted his horse sharply, and said, " Hullo, girlie I 
Why, what ye doin' here ? " And the next moment 
Hazel had leaped into the buggy, then into his lap, 
with arms about his neck, and sobbing. 

To her the world now held but one person, and 
she was in his arms! 

" Why, what's happened ? " came the quf from 
her father as he began to stroke and pr Hazel's 
head, then kissed her. " What on arth is the mat- 
ter, house burned, or what ? " 

"No, notliing of that sort," responded Hazel, 
cheering up, " only I left home soon after you did, 
got breakfast at iN.olly's, stayed at the schoolhouse 
a while to kill time, and came up here to meet you. 
I began i get scared, I guess ; it's so lonesome here. 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 227 

She's gone," she added the next moment, " and the 
iKiys with her. Uncle Levi took them to the sta- 
tion. I saw them pass the schoolhouse and she'd 
been crying." 

"O' course, o' course," returned her father so- 
berly, " 'n' I'm sorry she had to. I'm sorry any 
woman ever has to cry. But it's best so. Martha 
was like an achin' tooth to you 'n' I, Hazel, 'n' o' 
course it hurt all 'round to hev it yanked out. Now 
it's out, let's forget it 'n' start fresh. I'm goin' to 
do the right thing by Martha, ez I said, 'n' soon ez 
it kin be done, too. I've got the money, your 
money, whar it's safe, 'n' now we kin keep house 
'n' hev a lot o' comfort. Ye got to stop keepin' 
school, though, now." Then he drew from his 
pocket a bank book and handed it to Hazel. 

" Why, it's ten thousand dollars," she exclainied, 
glancing first at her name on the cover, then inside. 
" and you only had nine thousand, five hundred ! " 

" Wal, yes, that's so, but I've ben scrapin' up a 
h'ctk fer ye 'long back, 'n' I wanted to make it even 
money," he answered tenderly, " 'n' now I won't hev 
to worry no more 'bout your futur." 

Tlien, as if all clouds had now rolled away 
from their sky. he kissed her once more, picked up 
the reins and dro\c on. 



338 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 






Half way to Oakdale, and where an outlook point 
was reached, from which the vista of valley and 
bordering ocean was visible, he halted again. 

" Say, girlie," he said, with a droll smile and wco 
little twinkle in his eyes, " do v ■ know what I fust 
thought when you pounced out onto me so sudden 
up back ? " 

"No," she letuirifd, also smiling; "I couldn't 
guess. What was it ? " 

" Why, I cal'lated you must 'a' heerd Mr. Whip- 
r'e had ben scalpt by Injins, that's what." 

" Well, you are wrong, father, all wrong," she 
answered decidedly ; " Mr. Whipple isn't in my 
thoughts at all I " 

" O' course not, course not," he responded sooth- 
ingly; "how could he be? That was only my 
guess ! " 

Then he chirruped to the horse and on they went 
again. 




CHAPTER XIX 



WHEN Uncle Asa and Hazel returned to 
their hid-avvay home in Maple Dell, both 
feeling like school children at the close of 
a term, they found that Martha had prepared and 
left for them a rather unique and also solemn sur- 
prise, for the parlor was arranged as if for a funeral. 
All chairs from other rooms, except rockers, had 
been carried to the parlor and arranged in rnws; 
Hazel's banjo, auto-harp, and all books and music 
taken out and piled on the kitchen table ; the curtains 
drawn ; the center-table set close to the fireplace and 
on it lay the family Bible, open, with a vase of 
flowers beside that. To add a suggestive illusion, 
the tall clock had been stopped at ten-thirty exactly ! 

" Wal," drawled Uncle Asa, smiling, as he sur- 
veyed this arrangement, " Martha's fixed things 
'bout ez they'd orter be for 'n occasion o' this sort, 
'cept the corpse. Wonder if she figgered or war 
hopin' I'd drop dead out o' sudden grief to finish the 
layout ? " 

Then going to th<> center-t.^hle, he found in the 
229 



230 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



II 



open Bible an even more spiteful addition to this 
parting shot — her wedding ring ! 

" Kinder wanted to do a little scratchin', didn't 
ye, Martha ? " he ejaculated at sight of this, " 'n' 
tell me ye war dern glad to git shet o' me, eh? Wal, 
thar's two on us feelin' that way, anyhow ! 

" Say, Hazel," he added, glancing at her as she 
raised the shades, " your dear stepmother's left her 
weddin' ring to spite me, but she didn't leave the 
watch 'n' chain I give her on that suspicious occa- 
sion, I notice? Curis, curis," he continued mus- 
ingly, " what a make-up that woman had, anyhow I 
Here I let her hev 'bout all the money that cum in 
fer nine years, 'most of which she salted ; I clothed 
'n' eddicated them two boys o' hern, 'sides puttin' up 
with all their devilment, 'n' now. not satisfied with 
tryin' to steal your sheet anchor, that money, she 
sets out to kick me once fer good measure ! 'Bout 
all she lacked to be perfect war horns, two hoofs, 
'n' a forked tail, I cal'late. 

" I s'pose she'll say all sorts o' nasty things 'bout 
yew 'n' I, Hazel," he continued, smiling at her now, 
"but we'll let her do the talkin', won't we, girlie? 
It'll be a case o' givin' a calf rope enough, I figger? " 

" No, she won't dare," responded Hazel, who 
understood women's nature better than her father, 
" for I, too, left her a note telling her I saw her 



m/-*: i-^Km'- .' . , 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



231 



steal the money, and she knows people will believe 
me sooner than her. 

" V/hy, she's a fool," she added a moment later, 
opening the clock to start it, " for she's left both 
our notes and that make-believe roll of money tied 
to the clock pendulum! Now we can prove why 
she was asked to go away! No, we shall never 
hear a word from her, father ! " 

And the keen-witted Hazel measured her much- 
abhorred stepmother aright, for never a word of 
explanation came from her to any one in Oakdale, 
or any comi unication except to Squire Phinney, 
requesting him to sell he former home, now rented, 
which he later on did. 

And so closed this peculiar woman's connection 
with Uncle Asa and with Oakdale as well. 

He was true to his promise and idea of justice, 
also, for he at once authorized Phinney to obtain 
the aid of two other honorable men, make a fair 
appraisal of his old, weather-worn house and small 
farm, and a year later that factotum of Oakdale's 
legal affairs paid Goshen a visit, tendered the 
obstreperous Martha a sum equivalent to her dower 
right in Uncle Asa's estate, and received in return 
a legal release from such rights, duly signed, wit- 
nessed, and afterward recorded in the archives of 
Oakdale. 



23a 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



m 



I 



l^ 1 i:! 



Of course such a happening astounded that quiet 
hamlet as naughi; else ever had done, although Mrs. 
Phinney and several other wise matrons shook their 
heads or nodded mysteriously while discussing it, 
and asserted that it was no more than they had 
expected all along. Also that Uncle Asa had been 
duped to begin with, and the only wonder was why 
he had stood it as long as he had. 

" I've no explanation to make or a word to say 
about the affair," Hazel responded to the eager in- 
quiries of Molly Bascom and the rest of her girl 
friends. " I've never liked my stepmother, as every 
one knows, but I've had to endure her, however, 
as best I could for father's sake. Now that she 
has seen fit to depart and can't defend herself, I shall 
be charitable enough to say 'amen' and nothing 
more to all alike." 

And true to the nobility of her character. Hazel 
never did say anything else. 

Uncle Asa also made haste to fill the domestic 
gap in his home by engaging the services of Aunt 
Sally Perkins, a spinster sister of Molly Bascom's 
mother, who for a modest stipend was glad to 
accept so good a home and become a combination 
of chaperon and mother to Hazel ; also housekeeper. 
She was eminently pious, feared the Lord, prayed 
earnestly for everybody and everything each night. 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



233 



and the only point of difference between herself and 
Uncle Asa was because he ignored the need of say- 
ing grace before every meal. 

Hazel appeared in the church choir each Sunday, 
her auto-harp and banjo were heard more frequently 
in the house, Uncle Asa became more droll and 
smiling, Hazel's girl friends came oftener to Maple 
Dell, and the dove of peace and angel of happiness 
both were daily visitors. 

And then one day Uncle Asa made a characteristic 
proposition to Hazel. 

" Summer's more'n half gone, girlie," he said to 
her, " 'n' it's 'most the last o' August. Now let's 
yew 'n' I git up a sort o' picnic to celebrate some 
Ihings as is turnin' out to be blessin's. Yew invite 
a few o' yer gal friends, 'n' two or three fellers, o' 
course, to balance up, all my two boats'll carry, 'n' 
we'll all go down to the shore, sing, go bathin', dig 
clams, brile some lobs, 'n' ez the moon's 'most full, 
come home by the ligi.i on't. What do ye say? " 

" I've a better plan," answered Hazel smilingly, 
after considering this one, " and that is, you and I 
will go all by ourselves and do what you suggest. 
You are good enough company tor me; I am hap- 
piest with you alone, so let us picnic together." 

" Wal, jist ez ye say, girlie," returned her father 
benignly ; " you are sarlinly good 'nuff company 



*» 



OCT 



kl'i ' -il 



234 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



fer me, 'n' to-morrer we'll start 'bout ten when the 

tide sarves." 
He was up early the next day, made many trips 

between home and boathouse, carrying all sorts of 
things for convenience and comfort, and when all 
was ready and Hazel followed him to it, she smiled 
at the array of cushions where she was to sit in the 
stern of his small boat over which he had rigged 
a canvas canopy to protect her from the sun. To 
add to the picturesque touch, he had also tacked 
strips of old sail-cloth around the gunwales to hold 
in place a fringing row of cat-tails. He assisted 
Hazel to her seat as if she were a queen. She 
grasped the tiller ropes, he the oars, and away they 
went. 

" Ye needn't mind steerin'," he said a little later, 
halting his strokes and handing her her banjo. 
" 'Twon't be low water till 'most two, we got lots o' 
time, 'n' I'd rather hev you play 'n' sing 'n' I'll go 
slower 'n' do the steerin'. Play sutliin lively. I 
feel that way, myself." 

He certainly did also, for he joined his voice with 
hers in the score of time-worn darky songs slie now 
rendered with gay abandon; the bobolinks, rail- 
birds, and marsh-swallows rose, circled, sang, and 
peeped all about and above them; the crisp sea 
breeze blew in to add zest, and had they been lovers 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



235 



instead of prosy father and daughter, they couldn't 
have been more in tune with time, place, and antici- 
pation. 

He was like a lover, also, all that bright summer 
day to his well-beloved " Girlie," waited on her hand 
and foot, and while she insisted on donning her 
bathing suit in his old fish house up back of the 
beach, to wash the clams he dug, that and set the 
table were all that she was allowed to do. 

" Yew're my Sunday gal to-day, Hazel," he as- 
serted smilingly, " 'n' yew 'n' I are sorter sweet- 
hearts, too, so ye jist got to be waited on so I kin 
feel I'm a young feller agin, jist once." 

When fhe clams were steamed just right, lobsters 
broiled to a turn, and coffee made, they two feasted, 
as well they could now, and after that with Hazel 
in a hammock he had strung up in the grove, Uncle 
Asa lit his cob pipe, seated himself at the foot of a 
tree in the shade and, as might be expected, became 
philosophic. 

" Thar's nothin' like the smell o' salt water 'n' 
lookin' out over the ocean 'n' surf to make a body 
fergit everything else, git lie," he said, " speshly 
when ye hev it all to yerself. Now, I figgered ycw'd 
like some young folks 'long for company, 'n' let me 
wait on the bunch. But this is a lot better, 'n 
makes me feel more like kickin' up my heels." 



i:i 



236 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



" That's why I said we two would come and no 
one else, fathr/," returned Hazel. "I know you 
best, and what you enjoy best." 

" Ye do, girlie, ye do sartin," he responded, well 
pleased and smiling, " 'n' now I'm goin' to tell ye 
suthin I never did afore nor to nobody else o' 
course, 'n' it's this. If thar's any more darn fool 
things'n one man kin do in this world, it's what 
two will blunder into, I'm satisfied. Now when 
your mother died o' course I figgered you'd need, 
'n' grow up happier by havin' some one to take her 
place, ez it war, 'n' I married Martha — or ez I 
rec'lect how it cum 'bout, she did :he trick, 'n' that's 
what it was. Now I was — wal, let's fergit it fast 
ez we kin, only it leads up to 'nother matter that's 
on my mind — your futur. Now with that money 
I've got safe in the bank for ye — 'n' it seemed 
like Kingdom Come to me to git it — you won't 
never be 'bleeged to marry fer a home. Ye may, 
o' course, 'n' I hope ye will if jist the right man 
wants ye, but go slow 'n' be keerful, mighty keerful, 
'bout doin' so. Gittin' married is takin' a life sen- 
tence to live 'n' love one man. That is, love him a 
spell 'n' be the best o' friends arter, that is all 'twill 
amount to, ez ye must 'spect. Ye want to go 'bout 
it with your eyes open, too, not let your feelin's 
count fer much either — 'tain't safe; they'll fool ye. 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



237 



sure, ez Natur planned to hev 'em. 'N' this leads 
me lip to that feller, Whipple. 

" I ain't pryin' inter your heart feelin's, Hazel," 
he continued more earnestly after a pause. " I 
couldn't ef I wanted to, 'n' I don't want to. Only 
I mean to give ye the best advice I kin, 'n' ye must 
do ez ye feel is best. Now I like him, he's square 
'n' honest, 'n' true blue. But he's kinder bossy, high 
strung, 'n' must be looked up to 'n' 'lowed his own 
way. Gin him that, 'n' he'll be a noble sort o' 
hero, snub him some 'n' he'll git sulky. That's his 
make-up ez I've measured him, 'n' I think I'm right. 
Now he's done me a good turn, nobody ever did or 
could do one like it, 'n' got me the money I war 
skinned out on over twofold. 'N' it war money I 
had laid up fer yew. O' course I feel grateful, I'd 
orter. Now back o' all that, 'twa'n't fer me en- 
tirely he done it, 'twar fer you. Hazel, I'm sartin, 
'n' that man's figgering on winnin' yew ez pay. I 
don't blame him, neither. If I was him, 'n' knowin' 
yer make-up ez I do, I'd sell my soul to git ye 'n' 
call it a good bargain. But that's what ye must 
figger on. He'll be here 'fore long, 'n' when he 
comes he'll come courtin', mark my words ! " 

" I know it," interrupted Hazel eagerly, " or I've 
half believed it so some time, and what you say 
convinces me what his intentions are. He is a nice 



238 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



enough man, no doubt. There are some things 
about him I like also; he is refined and honorable, 
I am sure, but he is as you say, masterful, and wants 
his own way and — I wouldn't marry such a man if 
!ie were the last one on earth and crawled on hands 
and knees from Oakdale depot to get me — never, 
never I 

" There is something else I'm going to tell you, 
father," she continued more tenderly, " and it's 
this: You have all your life long been the most 
loving of fathers to me, have scrimped and saved 
money to protect me from want when you are gone. 
You worried your poor dear heart sore because you 
thought it lost, and now in return, and for what few 
years you have left, I am going to be yours only, 
and do all in my power to make you happy. If 
Mr. Whipple got me he'd want to take me away and 
leave you alone and — and, father, he couldn't make 
me love him enough to do that in a thousand years, 
and I mean it, too, if it were the last words I had 
to utter ! " 

And so she did, just then. 

" There is another thing you haven't thought of. 
father," she added more calmly, "and it's tb^". 
Mr. Whipple came here to buy a power site 
Barre, and North, or Curtis, who sold you the mii. 
stock, heard of it and planned to get aliead of him 



THE CASTLE DUILDERS 



239 



in the matter. Mr. Whipple found it out, came here 
again, hinted around that it was Bear Hole Swamp 
he intended to buy, and actually bought Rocky Glen 
gorge for his dam site. He also guessed that this 
man North or his partner, Otero, would be taken in 
as they really were, and buy your swamp to get the 
better of him or his firm. It has all worked out 
as Mr. Whipple planned, and this swindler, Curtis, 
or Otero, has bought what you were glad to sell and 
nobody else wants. Now my guess in the matter is 
that Mr. Whipple has gone to all this trouble fully 
as much to get square with this trickster, Curtis, 
as to do you a good turn. And while I am thank- 
ful he did, and you got your money back, he mustn't 
expect me to feel obligated to marry him on that 
account anyhow. Isn't that so, father ? " 

" Wal, that's 'bout the size on't, girlie," returned 
Uncle Asa, " only Mr. Whipple didn't really have 
any call to put the job up. He'd got the site he 
wanted, my money or yewrn wa'n't hisn to worry 
'bout, 'n' ef he hadn't got his eye on yew 'n' knew, 
ez I told him, 'twas yewr heritage I'd got buried in 
this no-good mine, why should he bother himself at 
all? No, Hazel, it is ez ye say, ye needn't feel 
noways in debt to Mr. Whipple, but I am, jist the 
same. Hou^oniever. let's fereit \\ lev now. Ye 
can't cook a rabbit till xc Ketch it. Mr. Whipple 



iii 



yi 



240 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



hain't ketched you yit, 'n' my idee is he'll hev a 
middliii" lively chase 'fore he does. Yew are, as 
Sam Gates sez, sweeter'n peaches an' cream, yew are 
all I'm livin' fer, but when it comes to a feller — 
wal, yew kin be harder to ketch'n an eel in wet 
grass, yew kin! 'N' I'm proud on ye fer it, too! 
Now let's go git some scashells fer Aunt Sally, to 
show her she wa'n't fergot." 

As planned, also. Uncle Asa and his piquant 
" Girlie," after a day of quite unalloyed happiness 
and mutual heart exchange, drifted homeward on 
the inflowing tide just as the moon began to silver 
their pathway. A gentle sea breeze swelled the one 
triangular sail Uncle Asa had set, the marsh birds 
had all gone to rest, and the peace and quietude of 
coming night were over all. He, also, having " said 
his say," as he would put it, and steering, was in 
retrospective mood, watching the scattered lights m 
the distant village and conscious, also, that a now 
distinctly outlined and more populous one on the 
hillside back of it, would in the near future become 
his final home ; while Hazel in the bow, ensconced in 
cushions, picked soft chords on her banjo and 
watched the rising moon. 

To one, life's end and its ominous shadow were 
nearing; to the other, its charm, and all its illusions 
were just rising. 



THK CASTLE BUILDKRS 



241 



Only for a little while was this wide separation 
of mood allowed by Hazel, for intuitively reading 
it in her father's face, she swept her fingers across 
the banjo sharply, and began to carol that happy 
old darky love song, " My Gum Tree Canoe," as if 
meaning to drive away his megrims. 

" We've had a jolly, happy day, hain't we, 
girlie ? " he said tenderly, later on, as they walked 
hand-in-hand up the lane. " One o' the happiest 
I've had in many years — jist you 'n' I, 'n' it war 
enufl. Two is company, 'n' even three is a crowd 
when two are satisfied." 

" We are going to have a lot more of them, 
father," she answered in the same tone, " and you 
must put it out of your head right now that I am 
likely to marry and leave you, for I never shall." 
And then the bony lingers that held one of her soft 
little hands closed with a warmer clasp. 

Another surprise, and also an assurance of what 
was in store for her — the weal or woe of a man's 
heart — .iwaited her on the parlor table in the form 
of a mailed package addressed to her by what she 
instantly recognize! as the same hand that had 
adaressed the bundle of hooks and music, and open- 
ing it eagerly, she found ^i beautiful pair of bead- 
embroidered and fringed deerskin slippers, and on 
the front of each was painted a tiny spray of flow- 



I 



I 



^■i^Bi 



342 TPIR CASTI.F BUILDRRS 

ers with a bird liolding it in its beak. With these, 
also, was a fan with tortoise shell handle, that 
opening disclosed an excellent picture of a rocky 
coast, vista of ocean, and waves leaping over the 
rocks, quite suggestive of a breeze. The one marvel 
of the gift — she knew it came from Stacy — was 
tliat the slippers lilted her dainty feet exactly! 

And recalling how he had stood and watched her 
with toes Planting upward under the big pine tree, 
a flush came to her face at thouglit of his accurate 
memory and measure. 

" It won't do him any good," she said to herself 
decisively, feeling in the slipi)ers to find if he had 
enclosed a card, and failing; "they are two beau- 
tiful gifts, but I shall never leave father." 

Then she hurried up to her room and hid them, 
also resolving to keep the arrival of these a secret. 



'.yA_'«/L*]!F'2!;L''imEHS'ifirjHU'AxnHr'V!nB«~iiC'/ 



CHAPTER XX 



STACY'S trip to Seattle, including other stops, 
had consumed more time than he expected, 
and it was almost .y. wtcks ere he aliglited 
from an east-bound train p' i' a a hide Junciion once 
more. He had wondi i 1 ui-iiy tiiiiia now Uncle 
Asa had come out of his barjjnin-'Ir'vinp with Otero, 
hoping most decidedly that if I'n' bein tuccessful. 
Hazel had been in his thoughts sccrr; of timi s each 
day of those long six weeks, and once during a 
tiresome wait at a hotel he had writt.n her u Icng 
letter, detailing his visit to Rawhide and discoveries 
there, then from a peculiar intuition that sich a 
missive was or might be premature, had torn il up. 
" She distrusts me, and will until this business is 
all cleared up," he said to himself rather rv.' fully 
now, " and any attempt to disabuse her mind before 
that time won't help matters. If it all comes out as 
I hope," he added after a long recalling of his few 
meetings with the cool and piquant Hazel, " she 
will see me in a different light. Until then, I'd best 
keep still." 

And now at tlii Junction, with an hour to wait 
243 







ill 



244 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



and nobody to help him do so, also watching the 
vanishing train, he very much wished himself still 
on it and speeding eastward towards Oakdale ; then 
sat down on a bench outside the station and drew 
from his pocket an almost week-old New York 
paper bought of the train boy the evening previous. 
As he glanced over it, the name " Curtis & Com- 
pany" in big type caught his eyes. Also, and 
above that, the caption in larger letters — 

" THE PASSAIC RECLAIMING AND DE- 
VELOPMENT COMPANY. 
7% GOLD BEARING BONDS." 

In an instant Stacy had read and grasped the 
entire animus of this advertiser -nt; Curtis & Com- 
pany, Mills Building, Wall Stic, were offering for 
sale the perfectly safe and most remunerative bonds 
ever known ! That the dear public who had money 
to invest should most certainly make haste and send 
theirs in before these were al! sold ! There was the 
usual lengthy explanation of how in case these gilt- 
edged securities were over-subscribed for, allotments 
would be made pro rata and in accordance with 
date received : would-be investors were also advised 
to wire their subscriptions in, with check to follow 
liy mail, in order to be more certain of obtaining a 
tew of these rare and valuable bonds. The name 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



245 



of a prominent bank was given as the one where 
interest, semi-annually, would be paid, and a long 
list of names for reference followed. All in all, 
it was the usual flamboyant advertisement so often 
seen in New York papers, also those from other 
financial centers. 

When Stacy had grasped this one with all it 
meant to him, he gave a loud and prolonged whistle ! 

" Well, you old swindler," he next exclaimed, 
jumping up, " now I have you right where I want 
you, scooped and bottled up! And I've got the 
cork ! " 

Then, so excited was he that he started down the 
long platform to walk off some of his boiling ex- 
citement. 

" Well, if this i.sn't luck! " he added, now halting 
to cut out this announcement. " I am, as Uncle 
Asa would say, a goat without horns ! " 

And just then a vision came to this inveterate 
builder of air castles, and he savi' himself >vith Jim 
Harkins and another officer, also perhaps this 
Swede. Tygson. just walking into the office of 
Curtis & Company, and quietly but firmly request- 
ing him or Otero to sign a deed of Bear Hoi'- 
Swamp for " one ciollar and other considerations " 
without fnrtlier parley. 

" And he will do it, too. uilhoul a nninnur." 






246 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 




asserted Stacy, glancing up to see the Rawhide 

branch train backing down beside the station ; " do 
it as nonchalantly as though buying a drink, for 
that's his make-up, a dead game sport! I think 
the proposition to visit Rawhide and face the music 
would phase him, however." Then Stacy picked 
up his suit-case, boarded the branch train, and was 
soon crawling up to Rawhide. 

He had wired Harkins, who met him at that 
terminus, and the two shook hands eagerly. 

"M^ell, what luck, friend Harkins?" Stacy in- 
quired anxiously. " Got any facts or documents 
that we want ? " 

" Oh, yes, all we shall need," returned Harkins 
buoyantly. " I've got Tygson's affidavit detailing 
the story of that night's orgie and his part in it, 
and he is more than anxious to go East and face 
Curtis North. He also wants some plan devised 
to make North give back his stolen gold or its 
value. He had about twenty thousand dollars 
worth of dust in his belt that night, he claims, 
and the murdered man double that. I've had 
hard work to keep him quiet, and not demand a 
warrant and ofiicer .5cnt to arre.st North, at once! 
I've also anotlier proof positive, a picture of 
Nortli found by someone in the cabin a month 
after the murder. It had been tucked in back of 



li 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



247 



the lithograph of a race-liorse tacked to the bare 
wall, and probably left there by one of the women. 
I got this through our friend McCue, vho knew 
who had taken it thea I've also got ' Bricktop ' 
located, or think I have. She's in 'Frisco, or was 
a year ago." 

" Well, you have got a full hand and the joker," 
laughed Stacy, as they now alighted from the car- 
riage taken to the hotel. " Let's have something 
to eat! I'm faint from fasting. Then after I've 
breakfasted, we'll settle on our plans. I've also 
got a surprise for you — read tiiat ! " and Stacy 
handed him the clipped-out advertisement. 

It was a half-hour before Stacy emerged from 
the dining-room, for this higli-altitude town's 
bracing air had made him ravenous. Then he lit 
a cigar, found Harkins outside on the piazza, also 
smoking, and sat down beside him. " Well, 
Jim," he said in off-hand tone, "' what do we do, 
go fetch North back here and have a lynching 
party, or just make liim disgorge? " 

" W^ell, it's up to you," returned Harkins, " and 
as I said, you can have either one or t'other, but 
not both, as you can easily mulerstand. Why the 
man's a mark now, and by that :u\ I judije lie 
rnay have money enough to pay smart. I tliink." 
he added afler a pause, " we'd In'.st lake Tyj,'son 



-48 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



along and get his money for him. Also, and in 
return for that, make him sign some sort of paper 
certifying that this was a loan made to North 
by him, or payment for mine stock and now re- 
turned. You see, I am, as an officer of the law, 
placed in a peculiar position, and under oath not 
to compound a felony or accept bribes, of course. 
I didn't even dare tell Tygson I knew where North 
was, only that I knew someone who did or thought 
he did. For me to go to New York as an of- 
ficer and demand money of North under threat of 
arrest and not make it, might, if found out, land 
me in jail. You can ask for a deed of your 
swamp for a nominal payment legally, Tygson can 
demand his stolen money back, I can be stand- 
ing by as an observer, but I can't do any demand- 
ing or admit I have a warrant for the arrest of 
this swindler. You must do the talking, I stand 
by as a bluff, and that is the layout. 

" I will, of course, go with you, and do all I can 
for a brother Mason," he continu'-d after another 
pause, " and as a private citizen, or I will go as 
an officer with a warrant for this man's arrest. 
It's a choice, and fur you to decide which I shall 
'W 

■■ / must think t! at over a little." returned Stacy 
slowly, not quite gi;isi)ing the legal aspect of the 



% 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



249 



case. "I don't care to lay myself open to the 
law, or, as you say, compound a felony." 

" You won't and can't unless I swear I've proved 
to you this North is an escaped criminal," inter- 
rupted Harkins, "and I shall not do that. My 
idea is that you bf.st gn on East alone, look 
thmgs over, write ine later, and if you say so, 
Tygson and I will come on and meet you in New 
York. You may want to investigate this new 
scheme of Curtis & Company, and perhaps use that 
for a lever to make him disgorge." 

" I presume a write-up of Curtis North, his pic- 
ture and a certificate of Rawhide stock ready for 
use by a New York paper, would make him wince," 
mused Stacy in response to this. "Anyhow, I'll 
do as you say, Brother Harkins — go back and look 
the land over. There is no hurry, and I don't 
know yet whether my Uncle Asa has sold his swamp 
or not. If not, there is nothing doing for us until 
he has, that's certain. I think you'd best let me 
take that picture of ' his whiskers ' on with me," 
added Stacy after a pause, " also the buffalo head 
fob. I can use Uncle Asa's certificate of Raw- 
hide stock for the signature of Curtis North, ob- 
tain that of Pentecost Curtis from the hotel in 
Barre, then make a plioto of picture, fob. and the 
two signatures on one plate. A sort of deadly 



250 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



parallel proof of the alias business. I will also 
write up the Rawhide history, parallel that with 
this new Passaic swindle, and say — wouldn't the 
" New York Universe " just jump at such an ex- 
pose? That paper has a perfect mania for the 
exposure of such swindling schemes, a world's 
record, in fact ! " 

And once more Stacy began the building of an 
air castle, and saw this one of an exposure, not 
only filling an entire page of " The Universe," but 
copied by Innulrcds of other leading papers as well! 

" Your scheme is all right," laughed Harkins in 
response, " and if Curtis & Company have invested 
as much money in this swindle as the ad. shows 
that they must, you can easily exchange your write- 
up and proof for a deed of your Uncle Asa's 
swamp and no questions asked." 

" And poor Tygson get left? " interrupted Stacy. 

" No-o," drawled Harkins, also castle building, 
" he and I could come on later, or better still, be 
at hand, and as soon as you got your deed signed, 
witnessed, and in your pocket, I could do my duty 
as an officer — and there would be sometliinj; do- 
ing in Rawhide later on, and Curtis North would 
be tlie star feature ! I can subpoena ' Bricktop ' as 
witness for tlie State, Tygson will swear to any- 



-. i<)i, 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 251 

thing, and by Jove," he added, slapping his knees 
sharply, " we've got him, got him dead to rights ! 

" It does me good," he almost shouted, " to see 
my way clear to string that villain up, for it was 
a heartless murder, to inveigle and dope a poor 
miner, then kill and rob him ! " 

And so in accord in the cause of justice were 
these two now, that they jumped up and sliook 
hands there and then. 

"We'll do it, we'll do it," exclaimed Stacy. 
" I'll start East to-night, you go to 'Frisco and lo- 
cate ' Bricktop,' then come on when I wire with 
Tygson, and the trick is done ! " 

" Better still." asserted Harkins. wise to the ways 
of such elusive females as this " Bricktop," " I'll 
fetch the red-headed fairy back to Rawhide and 
lock her up till wanted. Then we've got her s.t re. 
By Jove, we've got him, got him sure! I can 
almost see him swinging in a bag now ! And how 
tickled Tygson will be, for this poor Johnson was 
like a brotlier to him. he says." 

Stacy and Harkins now made another tour of 
Rawhide, visited its Masonic temple, library, club 
rooms, and called on the unique McCue, who so 
enjoyed lynchings. Then that afternoon St.icy de- 
parted for the long ride eastward, well satisfied 



it 



252 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



with what he had accomplished, and with his 
thoughts on Maple Dell and the fair maid dwelling 
there. 

" If only Uncle Asa has landed (,>«r^ I'll have a 
deed oi Bear Hole Swamp nwde out m her name," 
he said * > himself, castle building once more, when 
the seiliision of his stateroom on the night sleeper 
was 1 ,.chod, " and give it to her for a Christmas 
present. Wonder how the slippers fitted, and how 
the dear little girl is anyhow? She is a cooler, 
she is, but I'll win some smiles if any man can! 
I do hope Uncle Asa has landed Otero all right 
long ago, for that will put him on my side for 
keeps ! Then I'll go ahead and build our dam, in- 
duce one or two capitalists to put up shops and 
use our power to make any old things that are 
useful, start a real estate boom in sleepy old Oak- 
dale, shove up a few new houses, dredge that har- 
bor, build a wharf, run a trolley line between that 
and the depot, and things will be doing in old 0.il. 
dale for certain! 

" And why not use Bear Hole Swamp for our 
reservoir," he added, now thinking of it for the 
first time, " and have storage room enough to turn 
a million spindles? Also save Rocky Glen for a 
trout preserve, and let Uncle Asa run it? Then 
we can dike our power down the east side of the 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 253 

valley, build shops below it, and save the town 
for residences I By Jove, I'll do it I " 

All of which goes to show that Stacy was not 
only fast falling in love with Hazel Webster, but 
capa^'c of counting a thousand chickens before they 
were hatchtd. 



CHAPTER XXI 

IT was almost two months from the day Stacy 
left Albion, west-bound, until he, more than 
glad to do so, alighted from an early morn- 
ing train — home again ! He sent his suit-case to 
his domicile by an expressman, breakfasted at the 
best hotel, and reached his office, as he expected, 
an hour ahead of his partner. All the clerks and 
the faithful Ike was there, and Stacy at once in- 
vited the latter into their private office for con- 
sultation. 

" Well, Ike, my boy," he then queried eagerly, 
" any news from Oakdalc? " 

" Why, yes, very important news," responded Ike 
witli a knowing smile and wink. " You've been eu- 
chred by Pentecost Curtis and Miss Carmen's ad- 
mirer, the Spaniard, who have bought Bear Hole 
Swamp ahead of you!" 

" Hurrali for our side. Rah! Rah!" exclaimed 
Stacy, slapping Ike on the back. " This seems too 
good !o be true! IIow did you find it out? " 

" Why one of the Barre Committee, fellow by 
the name of Alton. J. Smith .Alton, his card says, 
254 



Ji^; 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 255 

came in and told us abet it. Said lie tlioii.,'ht we 
otin''t to know it. He was here over a monili 
ago, sptirting around with Miss Carmi.n. i saw 
them twice, once going info the Jap Garden, and 
once out to Riverside theater," and Ike smiled 
wisely again. " The little dude was out of 1. wn. I 
guess," he added, " but he's back now. I saw 
him on the street last week." 

" That's all right, more than right," returned 
Stacy, chuckling, "and now. Ike, I'll p st you on 
what's doing. Mr. Leon O tro, having boii>,'ht 
Bear flole .Swamp of Uncle Asa, as I planned to 
have him do, notified the Dane chap to i iiie here 
and u . I us. then finding I was out of town, went 
to New York to confer vith and assist his backer 
in a new scheme they r.ie at work upon, ih has 
also notified the Barre Committee where he is to 
be founc when wanted, and is awaiting mj return 
.in.xiously. to work the great twist act on us. Miss 
Carmen is also waiting for the other bracelet and 
her share of the spoils. And they will Ixjth wait 
a long time, and some more at that! Now, Ike" 
— and Stacy paused to formulate his next move on 
this peculiar chessboard — " T want ou to get some 
cluini of yours, fellow, of course, and you two 
go around together each evening where this Otero 
is likely to pn, and when you spot him, get near 



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356 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



enough for him to hear, then begin telling your 
friend of a good joke you heard lately of the Town 
Committee of Barre or someone buying a swamp 
named Bear Hole in Oakdale for a dam site, when 
another one had already been bought by Bemis, 
Colby & Company for that same purpose. En- 
large upon and laugh over the huge jol-e on the 
party who bought Bear Hole Swamp, then go 
away; or, better still, after some other exchange, 
separate in opposite directions. Do you under- 
stand?" 

" Sure," returned the now city-wise Ike, " that's 
an easy stunt, and I'll go at it at once. I might 
expedite matters by locating the hotel this Otero 
stops at — I know him, but he don't know me — 
arid the trick can be turned right away." Then 
the dutiful Ike returned to his work in the outer 
office, and Stacy awaited Colby with much eager- 
ness. He arrived shortly after, and the two part- 
ners greeted each other cordially. 

" Well, old man," asserted Colby after the 
hand-shake, " I'm mighty glad to see you back safe 
and sound. When did you fetch in? " 

" This morning on the sleeper. How's every- 
thing, and Aunt Carrie? Seen her lately? " 

" She's o. k., and so is everything else, and you've 
done finely to land that extra order for drills," 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



257 



responded Colby, who had the habit of condensing 
a good deal in a few words. " But the Barre folks 
are getting uneasy, your friend Otero has bought 
the dam site they suppose we want, which squares 
your Uncle Reuben, as you wanted, so you best go 
there in a day or two and pacify them. Get 
rested first, however. I've got a couple of sur- 
veyors engaged," he added hurriedly. 'They can 
go with two days' notice, and you know what's 
to be done." 

" They can wait till I want them," returned Stacy 
decisively, " but I'm going to Oakdale on the noon 
train, however ; lands me there in time for supper." 

"With the fair maid of shortcake fame, of 
course," smiled Colby, facing around from his desk 
again. " You are stung, as I remarked, and I'm 
in for the five-hundred-plunk present, I see, and 
glad of it! By the way, how's your sleuth act 
panning out ? Got Curtis North in limbo yet ? " 

" No, but as I've got my Uncle Reuben, as you 
call him, out of it, I'll have North on a limb later. 
Tell you all about it when I'm back. Give me a 
check for three hundred ; I'm broke," and the hus- 
tling Stacy, waiting only for that, added, " Ta, ta, 
see you in a week," and hurried out of the office. 

Like his partner, he was not addicted to long ex- 
planations or waste of time over business mat- 



li 



258 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



ters. With him it was to tliink and act almost 
simultaneously, as he was now doing. 

He cashed his check within live minutes after 
the bank opened, bought four fresh outing shirts, 
some ties and collars, rushed around to a candy 
store for a five-pound box, halted at a barber's 
for a shave and hair cut, then jumped into a cab 
and arrived home at ten-fifteen exactly, and 
ordered " Cabby " to call for him in time for the 
twelve-forty-five train out. He also rushed into 
the house, kissed his aunt dutifully, said, " I'd like 
dinner at twelve, sharp," hurried upstairs, took a 
bath, repacked his suit-case, and was down stairs 
at eleven-twenty precisely, looking spick and span 
in a fresh summer suit. 

" Now, Aunty," he said, plumping into a big 
chair near her, " I've got just an hour to tell you all 
about it, then I'm ' off agin, Finnegan.' " 

"Why, what's your rush, Stacy?" she returned 
pleadingly. " You have been gone two months, and 
now you stay home just an hour! It — it isn't 
treating me right ! " 

" No, no, it isn't. Aunty," he assented, soothingly. 
" It's an outrage, I admit. But I've got pressing 
business in Oakdale, and that milkmaid who says 
' Haow ' is waiting for me — I hope, I shall be 
home again in a few days, and give you a five 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



259 



hours' talk. Here's something I brought you," and 
opening the pacl<age she found a table-spread of 
soft deerskin, with an astounding picture of In- 
dians seated around a campfire, and a pair of beaded 
moccasins. Of course she exclaimed over them, 
grateful to be remembered, as all old ladies are. 

" I hope you will have good luck in Oakdale, 
Stacy," she assured him benignly, when he was de- 
parting again, " and remember, when you do bring 
a good wife here, it will be the happiest day I've 
known for a long time." 

" Even if she does chew gum, and say ' Laws- 
a-massy ! ' " laughed Stacy, then kissed his aunt, 
gratefully this time, and was whirled away. 

It was just sunset when he once more crossed 
the Rocky Glen Brook, nearing Oakdale, also eight 
weeks and two days since Uncle Asa had bade him 
God-speed at the station. And now, glancing at 
this brook (his own, as he recalled wiiU satisfac- 
tion), its diminished volume struck him as ominous, 
for the long not summer had reduced it to a mere 
rill. Hazel' hoolhouse, a poor little brown hut 
— seemingly so now — was next passed, and 
brought a thrill to his heart ; the village street, soon 
entered, was without an occupant, and looking across 
the opening vista of meadow to the thicket of trees 
marking the entrance to Maple Dell, Stacy felt that 



11 



26o 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



somehow these past eight weeks had linked his 
heartstrings and life plans almost irrevocably with 
or to the " maiden rare " abiding there. How 
she fared, or possibly felt towards him, was like 
the twilight now concealing the enclosing hills, and 
as vague as they. But a faint glow above these 
from the rising mooi. ts increasing, and to Stacy 
just now, that seemed an omen of favor ; also made 
him wish he could fly to that sequestered spot. 

Sam and the Old Guard were now, as invariably 
on summer evenings, lined up on the piazza as he 
alighted from Uncle Levi's old carryall, and Sam, 
seeing who it was, sprang to his feet with a " Hullo, 
Mister Whipple, by gosh, I'm glad to see ye," 
grasped Stacy's suit-case and almost dragged him 
inside. " Come right along," he added, in his 
anxiety to make his guest welcome, " 'n' I'll hev 
suthin cooked special ez it's past supper time. 
What 'ud ye like? I kin gin you some steak, some 
fried lobsters, or I kin brile ye a spring chicken, 
only that takes longer." 

And this reception warmed Stacy's heart as 
naught else had for two months now, and assured 
him that he was in favor at Oakdale, or at least at 
Sam's hostelry. 

" Go right up to the front room, yew know 
yewr's," Sam added, and as Stacy had admitted 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



261 



fritJ lobster would suit him, he then vanished 
kitchenward to order it. 

The presiding genius of the dining-room who 
answered to "Noiah" also smiled on Stacy later 
on, and then, when well fed and back to the piazza, 
he felt that he must break away from the talkative 
Sam as speedily as possible, for Maple Dell was 
calling him. 

" I hope ye're goin' to make a good stop with 
us, Mr. Whipple," ventured Sam as Stacy came out, 
evidently anxious to keep him there for the even- 
ing. " Sit down 'n' tell us what's kept ye 'way 
so long? I cal'lated yew'd be back fishin' in your 
own brook long 'go? 'Scuse me fer seemin' 'quisi- 
tive," he added eagerly, " but we've ben hearin' so 
many yarns 'bout ye or what ye war goin' to do 
here, I — wal, I — I'm powerful glad to see ye any- 
how! I s'pose ye know thar's ben 'nother feller 
here to buy B'ar Hole Swamp, didn't ye ? " 

And then Stacy had to laugh at Sam's adroit way 
of relieving his suspense without being impertinent. 

" Yes, I have," admitted Stacy, still smiling and 
resolving to have some fun with Sam in turn and 
square an old score. " I know this chap, Otero, has 
bought Bear Hole Swamp for a big reservoir and is 
to put up a power house and some shops below as 
well. Have heard, also, he has bought or is to buy 



m 



262 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



yo . hotel site and build a big modern one for sum- 
mer visitors, that the harbor is to be enlarged, a line 
of steamers put on to New York, and lots more 
doing. Have you had an offer for your hotel ? " 

" Good Lord," gasped Sam, " do ye mean it or 
am I dreamin' ? " Then with a quizzical glance at 
Stacy he added, " Yew kin take my hat on yarnin', 
yew kin! I ain't seven-spot high in the game, i;;,» 
a minute I But thar's suthin' brewin', 'n' — vval, 
I'll 'low ye'r square with me fer B'ar Hole Swamp, 
all right, all right ! " 

" I evened that up when you signed the deed for 
Rocky Glen gorge for six hundred dollars, Sam," 
laughed Stacy, " for it is there I may build a dam 
and put up 1 power house, and I would hi-ve paid 
three thousand dollars or even more for it , obliged 
to. I am willing to allow we are quits en Bear 
Hole Swamp, Sam. You needn't feel bad. however. 
Later on I will show you how to square yourself in 
money for practically giving me the Rocky Glen 
site."' 

And then Sam Gates, the sharpest and shrewdest 
Yankee in Oakdale, realized that he liad met his 
match and been outwitted. 

" I shall have a couple of surveyors here in a few 
days, Sam," continued Stacy, low resolving to re- 
lieve that worthy's suspense, " and we will probably 



•^<^PtNm -m VP 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



263 



begin building a dam right away, for my firm has 
a contract to supply electric power to Barre within 
a specified time. I shall make my home here in 
your excellent hotel, so will some of my best men ; 
we shall also have a gang of laborers to house and 
feed at low cost. I can pay you well for your as- 
sistance in providing for all these men, if you will 
give it. Now you know what I came here for two 
months ago. Also why I had to look over Bear 
Hole swamp and furnish you an excellent joke." 

" But what 'bout the other feller, 'n' his buyin' 
B'ar Hole," gasped Sam, " fer he did 'n' paid 'n un- 
godly price fer't, too? " 

" Did you send him into it ahead of the game ? " 
queried Stacy, beginning to laugh. 

" O' course, o' course," chuckled Sara ; " I had to 
do that, he war sich a stuck-up little store-winder 
figger he needed goin' through that swamp to take 
the conceit out o' him. 'K' it did," he added, now 
shaking with laughter, " fer Uncle Asa had to fetch 
him back; 'n' all B'ar Hole'd left on him w.>r jist a 
few muddy rags 'n' one eye to see outen. He looked 
wuss'n a weasel drownded in mud, he did, 'n' so "lad 
he wanted to lick me ! " 

" '^ind bought the swamp after that?" queried 
Stacy, now joining in the laughter. " He probably 
saw its value as a hoax and wanted it for his 



1 J 



i 



,ii\ 



264 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



friends. Swamps like that are scarce in this world, 
Sam! But don't feel grieved. It's still there, and 
you can still send r-ewcomers into it." 

Then glancing at the rising moon, he continued, 
" Now I'm going to stroll down and call on Uncle 
Asa," and so escaped from Sam and the Old Guard, 
now agog over this astounding disclosure. 

" It's Hazel he's anxious to see," asserted Sam 
after Stacy was well away from the piazz- , " 'n' by 
gosh, if she ketches him she's a winner ! " 

" Yew'd o'*er t.ild him 'bout Martha's lightin' 
out," drawled Lazy Luke, " 'n' prepared him fur the 
shift." 

" Why didn't yew do it ? " demanded Sam. 

" How could I ? " retorted Luke in measured 
tone. " Yew 'n' him war a clackin' every minit, 'n' 
nobody else cr-jld git a word in ' " 

And far away on the lonely, houseless, moonlit 
road, Stacy was striding onward, oblivious to all the 
excitement his arrival was to stir in Oakdale, for 
just ahead was a bewitchingly cool maid who held 
the key of his future life. 



■ i'ir 



J"»...l"W 



CHAPTER XXII 



FOR almost two months Stacy had \'iought 
about and Hved over his few meeting! with 
Hazel mary times; also recalled her dainty 
form, rose-tinted complexion, and soulful eyes al- 
mosi daily during that time. " A fool illusion," he 
kept reiterating to himself. " She's a wonderfully 
bright and tharming country lass, smooth of speech 
as a polist.»d i ity girl, and keen as a razor at repar- 
tee. But she distrusts me, didn't take to me over- 
well at first, and it's either forget her or I'm in for 
a heartache, I guess." 

But he couldn't do that, and in spite of the deep- 
laid and sini-^ter plots and schemes he was now try- 
ing to circumvent in the cause of justice, or else 
evade himself. Hazel kept intruding her personality. 
He had ?lso, as she shrewdly surmised, set about the 
ri>scuing of Uncle Asa's foolish investment for the 
double purpose and kindly wish to aid both him and 
Htzel, with her gratitude as final outcome. This 
had been done, as he now knew; Uncle Asa had 
probably played his role ? 'ccessfully and obtained a 
good price for his swamp; Hazel knew it, also, and 



i "ff r 



If* 



266 



THE CASTLF. BUILDERS 



Stacy's part in that direct restitution, and she ought 
by this time to feel that he was an honest well- 
wisher of her father and herself, and receive him 
accordingly. 

But would she ? 

And now reaching the foot of the maple-shaded 
lane and i;;(iiiestcred dell, he halted, realizing that 
his unannounced call so late in the evening was 
in rather poor taste. 

" She may be abed," he thought, " and will think 
I'm crazy to call now." 

But it would do no harm to reconnoiter the old 
house; she might be on the porch with Uncle Asa 
or — better still — alone, and so hi continued up 
the lane. Half way to the house and out upon the 
evening air now came to him the mingling of several 
voices singing to sharper piano accompaniment, and 
hastening '.jnward Stacy heard the last verse and 
chorus of " The Quilting Party " trille ' a- . borne 
to him adown the dell's perfect quietude. He felt 
sure that there was no need of hesitating now; no 
one would be looking out, so he hastened on and 
from outside the shrub-encloised dooryard soon saw 
Hazel at the piano, a group of young folk around 
her, and facing the window through which Stacy 
now glared, was the citified fellow he had seen with 
her ir a hammock two months previous ! 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



267 



And just then Stacy fc. — well, it is needless to 
assert how ! 

Another song was immediately forthcnming rom 
this happy group of smiling faces, Hazel's exquisite 
voice Iciding in it, and as if to add an extra thorn, 
that particular sonp was one of the re it (Kjpular 
ones Stacy had sent her! 

Only for a minute or two did or would Stacy 
remain an observer of this '^ne; he could be no 
part of it, he felt it rude thus n play eaves-dropper, 
and turning, hurried back to the lane again, feeling 
woefully left. 

And then whom should he see just emerf ing from 
the meadow across the street but Uncle A ! 

A few quick strides, a " Hello, Uncle xvsa," from 
him, a " Wal, hullo! By the great horn spoon, Mis 
ter Whipple ! " in loi.der-keyed response, and Stacy 
saw him drop a bundle and basket, leap forward, 
and grasp both his hands in cordial eagerness. 

" Wal, wal, wal," continued Uncle Asa, holding 
Stacy's hands, " ef this ain't a s'prise! Why didn't 
ye write me? Good Lordy, but I'm glad to see ye! 
'N' so'll Hazel be! Come right up to the house! 
When'd ye git here ? " 

" To-night," returned Stacy with more calmness. 
" and came down as soon as I could get away from 
Sam. How are you and how is Miss Hazel.' " 



rrr 



268 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



" Oh, fine's a fiddle, both on us ! Come right up 
to the house 'n' see the gal fer yersclf." And Uncle 
Asa picked up basket and bundle and grasped Stacy's 
arm. " I've a lot to tell ye," he added eagerly, 
" 'bout how I skun that snake in the grass you sent 
me, 'n' took his hay! Nine thousand five hundred 
fer that mire hole! Think on't! 'N' it's in the 
bank, too, 'n' I've ben singin' halleluiah three times 
a day ever since : " And so overjoyed was Uncle 
Asa that he slapped Stacy on the back. 

" I've got suthin else to tell ye," he added more 
seriously. " Martha's gone! " 

" Wnat — dead ? " queried Stacy, astonished. 

" No, jist gone," returned Uncle Asa in droll tone. 
" The Lord hain't took her to His bosom yet 'n' — 
wal, it's a question in my mind as to jist what her 
address will be in the next world, anyhow. But 
come right 'long 'n' see Hazel." 

" No-o, I'd belter not to-night," responded Stacy, 
halting. " Your daughter has company, a lot of 
young people — I walked up near enough to see — ■ 
and I'd rather not disturi) them." 

" That's nothin'," declared Uncle Asa assuringly, 
" only Jennie Oaks 'n' Molly Bascom 'n' some o' the 
young folks come down fer a sing, I cal'late. I 
went down the crick to pull my pots 'n' didn't know 
it. They'll go aw.iy nerty soon. Wh.y. I've ben 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



269 









vvaitin' two months to see ye — I won't let ye go 
now," and he grasped Stacy's arm again to pull him. 

" We will go up and sit outside a little while 
then," answered Stacy, yielding, " and to-morrow I 
will call and pay my respects to Miss Hazel." And 
back up the lane he went with Uncle Asa. 

Somehow, too, just now, as Stacy came in sight 
of the quaint old rookery of a house once more, half 
hid by the two luxuriant clusters of lilac and trel- 
lised porch between, its outstretching light and 
Uncle Aia's warm welcome all made it seem like a 
home-coming to him. That Hazel had these callers 
to enjoy a sing now appeared differently, and really 
no reflection on him or his unexpected arrival. 
Instead, he now felt it to be an evidence of her 
popularity among Oakdale's young folk. More 
than that, had he only known how little respect she 
actually had for this cigarette-smoking young fop 
from Barre whose ideas and repartee were limited 
to " Yaas," " Now, really," " You surprise me," and 
whose most thoughtful utterances seemed vapid to 
Hazel, Stacy would have felt less chagrin at seeing 
him watching her so admiringly ! 

But Stacy didn't, which was, or was likely to be, 
a decided advantage to Dan Cupid. 

" We'll sit out here under the big maple tree back 
o' the grin'stun," remarked Uncle Asa, now leading 



(,''■■ 



L 



wufmtm»"TbmaJ «riiSH95iH>=';«!S3s*.'a'"'='Vi'w?,siBP'»flis, ■■**.«!£:/'■ 



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270 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 




the way to it, " so's to be in the shadder, 'n' they 
can't see us, or tliey'll stop singin'. 

" 'N' it sounds good to me, jist fer 'nuff 'way, 'n' 
moonlight," he added, as they both stretched them- 
selves on the greensward, " 'speshly Hazel's. I've 
heerd the parson run on perty consid'ble 'bout angels 
singin', but when she jist lets herself out — wal, 
I'm thar in a minnit, 'n' don't want no harps twang- 
in' in, either." 

And just then, as if to prove his assertion. Hazel's 
voice rose sweet, clear, and like a flute in that old- 
time ballad, " Beautiful Bells." 

Stacy had expected, was anxious, in fact, now to 
hear Uncle Asa's version of what had occurred, but 
neither uttered a word until this song was finished; 
or then cither, for next came another old-timer, 
" Speed Away," and following that what Stacy 
afterwards learned was Hazel's favorite, " The Last 
Rose of Summer." Then the chat and laughter in- 
side began again. Stacy saw Hazel go out to the 
dining-room and return with a tray of what he as- 
sumed were refreshments, and then Uncle Asa spoke 
again. 

" I s'pose first of all, Mr. Whipple," he said so- 
berly, " ye're wonderin' how 'n' why Martha lit out 
'n' — w.il, I'd ratlicr not tell jist the reason, 'cause 
she's gone, 'n' most likely never'll set foot in this 



-ir*' *!<^i<£ti 



3S«"'.7 •W^.^fif^KT' '-la 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



271 



town agin. She's gone to her sister's in Goshen, 
that's 'bout thirty mile from here, 'n' I cal'late nei- 
ther on us is sheddin' tears, mebbe. Martha's ways 
wa'n't my ways, she sorter — so it seemed — iig- 
gered all me 'n' the farm 'n' Hazel was fer was to 
gin her a chance to salt down money. I gin her 
'bout all that come in 'cept my lobster money 'n' now 
'n' then a load of hay to run the house on; Hazel 
paid board, 'n' 'bout all we got was salt mack'rel 
fer breakfast, 'n' o' course could make dinner 'n' 
supper on water mainly, ez she cal'lated. Then she 
was pizen to Hazel ! 

" And then " — with a long pause — " the night 
arter I got hold o' that big roll o' money — Martha 
found it out o' course— 'n' — 'n' suthin happened 
that I'd never quite believed 'thout Hazel seen it ez 
she did. 'N' next day Martha went away, 'n' that's 
all I'll ever say 'bout it. The money's in the bank 
now, I'm goin' to have the farm 'prized 'n' pay 
Martha her dower right, 'n' — all I kin say is a 
man kin be fergiven fer makin' a drivilin' idjit 'n' 
bilcd-down dern fool of himself once — if he does 
it twice he'd orter be kicked into next year ! 

" I've got Aunt Sally Perkins, Molly Bascom's 
aunt, to keep house fer us; she's good ez gold 'n' 
all wool, rastles with the Lord night 'n' mornin', 
'n' thinks the only thing Hazel lacks is wings. 



.ii 



^«fi^"^'^»nlll■l-Ul;r••^i• • "r«sBPi."*rBi-iP»"s^ ' 



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27a THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

Likewise the only thing I'm real shy on is failin' 
to say grace 'fore every meal. 'N' she kin cook ekal 
to Hazel's mother, 'n' that's — some." 

" But tell me about your bargain with my friend, 
Otero," rejoined Stacy smiling, for he saw or knew 
that Martha had tried to steal this money as surely 
as though Uncle Asa had said so; " did it work out 
about as I said ? " 

" Why, 'twas like takin' candy 'way from chil- 
dren," laughed Uncle Asa, " 'n' Sam helped. He 
sent this little snippet, silk shirt, blue tie, tall collar, 
'n' dude hat on, into B'ar Hole ez a starter, 'n' he 
fetched out arter ten hours o' black flies, Mohawk 
briars, mud 'n' hornets, so done up he jist lay down 
'n' bellered like a calf. 'N' all he had left on him 
wuz the seat o' Sam's pants! He wuz so bushed, 
too, he was only able to cuss in a whisper ! I took 
him back, 'n' Sam said he wuz so mad when he got 
his breath he wanted to kill somebody ! 

" Next day he showed up lookin' slick agin, 'n' 
then. Lord, how I did sass him! Rubbed it into 
him 'bout snakes not bein' willin' to bite him till — 
wal, if he'd had a knife I think he'd 'a' stuck it inter 
me! 

" 'N' then I took nine thousand, five hundred 
outen him jist like pullin' plums off'n a tree, 'n' sorry 
I didn't make it ten! I coult" lOO, for I had him so 



?«■ MwS'X.lR..; 



^^T 



■n'Wisr^mtz'-smr^i 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



273 



harrowed up he'd 'a' gin it without a squeal." And 
Uncle Asa shook with laughter at his recollections. 

" \ ou did it all fer me, Mr. Whipple," he con- 
tinued, sobering, " saved my life 'most, 'n' Kingdom 
Come fer Hazel. I feel you'd orter hev half that 
money, too, 'n' if thar's anything I kin do fer you 
long's I live, it's yourn', no matter what." 

" You are more than welcome to the advice I 
gave, which was all I did do," returned Stacy seri- 
ously, " and the only return I'd like is for Hazel 
to become convinced that I acted from unselfish mo- 
tives and to avenge your having been robbed by a 
plain, every-day thief as you were. Only you 
mustn't tell her so," he added after a pause, " or 
even hint it. As I said 'o you on the shore that 
day, that conviction must force itself upon her, or 
she will dislike me ever after. No young lady of 
her spirit can be told that she has been mistaken 
in a man, and not resent it." 

And just then these two from partial ambush be- 
hind the grindstone saw the little band of Hazel's 
callers bid her good-night and troop away down the 
lane. 

" Now we'll go in," said Uncle Asa, rising speed- 
ily, "so Hazel kin see ye. T know she'll be glad, 
too." 

" No, decidedly no," returned Stacy. " I posi- 



:tj 



,!!«i 



I .-I'l 



i^ 



274 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



lively would not so intrude! She has been enter- 
taining her friends, must be tired, and so please give 
her my compliments and say I shall take the liberty 
of calling to-morrow evening. If you are going 
down to pull your pots to-morrow afternoon I'd like 
to go with you. I've a long story of more interest 
to you than you can guess. I also want your 
advice." 

" I'll go, you bet," was the speedy assurance, " 'n' 
we'll start top o' the tide 'bout two." 

" I'll be at your bcathouse at two," replied Stacy, 
also rising, and handing Uncle Asa the box of 
candy he had brought, " Please give this to Miss 
Hazel from me and assure her that I enjoyed her 
singing very much." Then he hurried away. 

To his surprise, also, he found Sam alone on the 
piazza awaiting him when he reached the hotel, for 
that astute Yankee had by this time seen a new 
horizon opening above Oakdale, the possibilities of 
which made him almost gasp. 

" I've ben waitin' up to see ye, Mr. Whipple," he 
assured Stacy, nc .v rising to meet him. " Hev a 
cigar, 'n' let's talk matters over." And Stacy, feel- 
ing sure that the one preferred must be Sam's best, 
lit it, dropped into one of his big chairs, glanced 
over the vista of broad meadows to where the moon 



'^jn^mjuF'^s: 



^rj-'^z-y^ 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



275 



silvered the bordering ocean, and awaited what 
might conic. 

" Now fust of all," began Sam, also lighting a 
cigar, " I want to tell ye I hope ye don't lay up any- 
thing agin me on account o' the trick I played, 
. ndin' ye into that swamp? It's a habit o' mine, 
sich jokes, 'n' 'bout all I've got to 'liven up Hfe 
here. 'N' I'm goin' to 'low I'd 'a' done jist what 
ye did, buy that Rocky Glen gorge ez ye did, 'n' I 
take off my hat to your slickness. Yew're all right, 
yew be ! Now, ez the sayin' is, whar are we at on 
this new deal, 'n' what kin I do to help ye? " 

" And my worthy friend Sam Gates at the same 
time," laughed Stacy, who understood the race of 
men who live " beside tho highway of life." 

" Wal, o' course, in a way," drawled Sam, " only 
ez ye got yer dam site a damn sight Icss'n 'twas 
wuth to ye, ye might — wal, jist gin me a hint 'bout 
buyin' up some land yew don't really need, 'n' may 
riz? I don't s'pose yew want all the persimmons on 
the bush ? " 

And then Stacy laughed heartily at this Yan- 
keeism ! 

" No, Sam," he returned, still cliuckling, " you 
can have all I can't use conveniently, and I'll put you 
wise if you will do one thing for mc? " 



il 



; il 



ir,''v^/»miT^':i^:sjmi^'^mi^^t^^^rtmmg)'mmmr ' 



276 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



I'f 



responded Sam unsus- 



" I'll do it, sure's a gun,' 
pcctingly. " What is it ? " 

" You promise, do you, Sam, on your honor? " 

" I do, sartin." 

" Well, then, if to-morrow you will rig up for 
fishing, go down through Bear Hoi Swamp, and 
give what trout you catch to Hazel Webster, I will 
in one month from to-day tell you where to buy land 
that is sure to quadruple in price in a year! Now 
I have your promise, Sam ! " 

" Ivmder gittin' square with int'rest, ain't ye?" 
responded Sam, grinning, " but, b'gosh, I'!', cio it ! 
Yew're goin' to build below Rocky Glen, so o' course 
land up thar'U riz, won't it? " 

" I didn't say so, Sam," replied Stacy, laughing 
again. " I said I might. I bought that to catch 
trout in ! " 

" 'N' ye've ketched me comin' 'n' goin'," admitted 
Sam, grinning ruefully, " but if ye'll promise to keep 
whist 'n' not tell the old hulkers here, I'll do ez I 
said to-morrow." 

" And I'll keep my promise, Sam ! " 

Then Stacy, satisfied with the way he had squared 
himself with the irrepressible Sam, went to bed. 



fi.zmm'^ '" 



•▼ III' I I il IFIIi i| III 111 I illMI Ill 11 hi> 



in 



ing >ou. 
season." 



CHAPTER XXIII 

''OU needn't keep your promise to fish 
Bear Hole Brook, Sara," Stacy assured 
him next morning. " I was only jolly- 
Besides, trout are not good so late in the 
For over night Stacy had thought better 
of himself, and to send that old and fat lar.dlord 
through this morass seemed a pointless and cruel 
joke. 

" I'll tell you about our plans in due time," he 
added. " In fact, when it comes to buyii;g land as 
a speculation I think we had better go into part- 
nership. You know the value now better than I do, 
who owns it, can drive better bargains, and if you 
want to go in with me on some, I'll furnish the cap- 
ital and allow you one-third of the profit." 

" I'll do it, yew bet," admitted the shrewd Sam, 
" 'n' mighty glad o' the chance ! " 

And so the first practical step towards the erecifon 
of Stacy's city was taken and the firm of Whipple, 
Gates and Company tlnis started. 

"I shall want Uncle Asa in with us," added 
277 



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"T.'^ 'yr sESLi^i^TP*;''^'-;^'' .z .vs;.' 



■"'>»-. Sk-.-.j.. 



w 



278 



Tllli CASTIJ'. RUILDF.RS 



Stacy. " He owns a lot of land that will — if my 
plans work out — become valuable, and — well, I 
think a good deal of Uncle .\sa." 

" I'm willin', niorc'n willin'," asserted Sam. " fei 
he's all right, honest, 'n' a pcrty shrewd old diirk 
arter all ; we three kin make a team." 

And they did, and one that in after years prac- 
tically controlled the little city thai grev up where 
sleepy Oakdale now stood. 

After breakfast, Stacy started out on a tour of 
inspection, first to R' ky Glen Rrook. And now its 
small volume in contrast to the Bear Hole stream at 
this season again occurred to him. A reservoir was 
possible here in the gorge, but in comparison with 
the mighty power and capacity of one in the Bear 
Hole Swam" valley, a mere pigmy ! 

His next move was to climb the hill west of that 
and survty its area. And now looking over that 
and recalling stage-driver Uncle Levi's past asser- 
tion that " Natur had riz hills all 'round on pur- 
pose fer a dam," Stacy realized its force. 

" Here is the place for our reservoir," be declared, 
after a long look around, then down the valley to the 
bordering ocean, " and alongside the valley with a 
canal above is wliere factories must be put up and 
save Oakdale for residences. This is and must be 
the inevitable outcome and plan of my city, for 



:^T"«i8!5aK:';_.. 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



279 



reservoir space, volume of water, and location all 
force it. 

" Ily Jove, they do without question! " he added, 
after another long look around. " ..d there is 
timber enough in that swamp to build a thousand 
houses 1 " 

And just nf the deed of this unquestionable site 
whose valui might soar into tens of thousands of 
dollars was in the name of Leon Otero, backed by 
the most unprincipled sharper in New York City 1 

" I've got to get possession of tha* grant ; it's a 
CISC of woodchuck now! " Stacy again asserted, re- 
calling this fact. " Got to twiat Curtis North, or 
my city collapses ! 

" I'm afraid I've made the mistake of my life," he 
continued, starting down through the undergrowth 
toward the village again, " by putting up the scheme 
(0 save Uncle Asa and a paltry four thousand dol- 
lars. If ever Curtis North realizes or guesses my 
plans, fifty, no, a hundred thousand dollars won't 
buy it back unless it's to save his neck ! " 

And just then Jim Harkins, Rawhide, and the 
Passaic Reclaiming Company flashed into Stacy's 
mind. 

He dined once more, served by the gum-chewing 
Norah, and this time two of that omnipresent genus 
" ye drummer " were also being entertained. 



1 



f! 



I- I 



380 THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

" Is it an omen, or advance guard of commerce? " 
thought Stacy, sizing thcni up by sidewise glances. 
Then, hurrying through his meal, he started down 
towards Maple Dell and to Uncle Asa's boathousc. 
To his surprise and gratification, also, on nearing 
it he saw Hazel seated beside it and Uncle Af 'n 
his boat, both apparently awaiting him. She a se 
iieedily as he came down the narrow walk, smiled, 
extended her hand, and a " How do you do, Mr. 
Whipple, I am very glad to see you again," was his 
greeting. 

And just then Stacy's heart gave an unusual throb 
of satisfaction also. 

" I am not going to intrude on you and father this 
aftmioon," she added, after Stacy's expression of 
pleasure in again meeting her. " Only I wanted to 
thank you as soon as possible for the beautiful gifts 
you - ave remembered me with, and invite you to 
tea. I can't promise strawberry shortcake again, 
however." 

" Your smiles and yourself are enou- 1," he re- 
.uined gallantly. "I assu • you that I ave been 
count i'g the days till I could see you again." 

" I tliink you were very unkind not to come in last 
evening," she responded archly. " Were you bash- 
ful?" 



■.i3.f.'^£i^mim^si^^:xBLaaaBX^':jsEB^:^LiM. 



X srai 



THE CASTLK BUILDERS 



381 



" Yes, that was tlie reason," smiling once more, 
" and tlien I didn't want to intrude." 

" Well, don't let it liappvn again," glancing at 
Uncle Asa, patiently awaiting his passenger, " and 
come back early. Our tea will be read' at six- 
thirty." 

And this was Stacy's reception by the elusive 
Hazel after so long an interim, and a more cordial 
one than he had hoped for, though not one he might 
presume upon, however, as he knew full well. 

And then, with the tide at half ebb and running 
strong, they made good time down the winding 
rreek, and in less than an hour were tossing upon the 
ocean billows while Uncle Asa pulled his pots. He 
only drew a dozen of the nearest ones, secured per- 
haps twenty lobsters of legal size, then rowed back 
inside the small harbor, pitched his catch into a 
floating car, and pulled up to the oltl wharf. 

'' We'll jist set down fer an hour or so," he then 
said, leading the way up to the little grove, " 'n' hev 
a smoke talk, 'n' go back so not to keep the wimmin 
waitin'." 

And Stacy, reading this genial Uncle Asa aright, 
knew that to bring Hazel and himself together as 
much and as often as possible was now his sole 
thought and plan. 



,'>J| 



'^-'\:-r '.'SSM' 2l'>'^ i^«,'«i7ilf:i^Sf. "-? *r:5*;'».'"' 



282 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



And Stacy was quite willing! 

" Well, Uncle Asa," he began, after the two were 
seated with cigar and cob pipe alight — Uncle Asa 
had refused Stacy's proffered cigar — " I promised 
you a story of interest and you shall have it now. 
To begin, your friend, Curtis North, alias Pentecost 
Curtis, is an escaped murderer, and now in New 
York engineering another swindle much like the one 
he duped you with, and the sheriff of Rawhide is 
readj- and anxious to take him back and swing him 
up! " 

" Good Lord ! " gasped Uncle Asa, scarce grasp- 
ing all this. " How'd ye find all thai out, 'n' is this 
little Otero, mixed in ? " 

" Very much so," Stacy returned assuringly, " in 
fact, equally guilty in law, and as likely to swing for 
it." And then he began at the beginning of this 
astounding discovery and told the story of his visit 
to Rawhide, what he had learned there, and what his 
plans and expectations were in full. 

" I may want to take you to New York," he con- 
cluded, "to identify and help scare this Curtis 
North, also Otero, into signing a deed of Bear Hole 
Swamp that I want, and then if all works well, Ilar- 
kins, anntlier officer or two, and this Tygson will 
walk in upon Curtis & ("omi)any and take them back 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



283 



to Rawhide! What will then happen to tliem I'll 
leave you to guess ! " 

" Oh, Lordy, Lordy, this seems too good to turn 
out so," exclaimed Uncle Asa with a shout. " 'n'," 
with an admiring look at Stacy, " yew sartinly are a 
wizard o' the fust water to ketch them two devils, 
ef ye do! " 

" Well, I mean to," asserted Stacy modestly, 
" and soon, too, within a month. I just ran up here 
to look things over, call on you and Hazel, stay a 
day or two, then I'm off to finish matters if I can. 
I've got to prepare a write-up of both the Rau-liide 
swindle and this new one of ' his whiskers.' make 
photograpliic copies of his picture, the watch fob, 
his signature as Curtis North on your mine cer- 
tificate, and as Pentecost Curtis on the Barre Hotel 
register, also one of these Passaic bonds, these of 
course to be duplicated. And when I have this gun 
loaded, I shall wire Hawkins to bring Tygson to 
New York, tlicn coine here for a day's visit and take 
you on to help and see the fun. I've a faint idea 
that when Curtis North sees us four and glances at 
my write-up, he may wilt, 'jist a trillc,' as you 
would put it I Eh, Uncle Asa ? " 

" Yew bet he will." shouted Uncle Asa, exploding 
in laughter, " 'n' by hokey. I'll ask him if he won't 



;li 



ma 



i. ■: 





rik 



2S4 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



lead us in prayer arter tlie deed is signed, same's he 
did here at the mectin's! " And that keen humor- 
ist, quick to see the funny side of everything, 
laughed until tears almost came. 

" 'N' ef he ain't feelin' in jist the mood for 
prayin'," he added, chuckling, " I'll ask him ef he 
won't jist sing one verse o' ' The Sweet Bye 'n' Bye ' 
to kinder prepare his mind fer Rawhide 'n' the cere- 
monies thar, I will, by cr':ky!" 

" We must be slow and careful in this matter." 
cautioned the more serious Stacy. " You mustn't 
hint what I've told you, not even to Hazel as yet, 
for it might get back to Barre through her friends. 
One of the Committee knows this Otero, and not 
until I've got this Bear Hole deeded back and Curtis 
North taken must a soul in Oakdale know what's 
afoot. Is Squire Phinney one who can keep a 
secret if he is paid to do so? " 

" He is, sartinly," returned Uncle Asa assur- 
ingly, " ef thar's a dollar in it, yew bet, fer the 
Squire likes 'em better'n any man in Oakdale 'n' he's 
got more, too ! He's the richest man here." 

" Well. I can fix him tlien," complacently, " for 
I must obtain a copy of the Bear Hole deed when I 
come back after you. 

" And now. Uncle Asa," he continued after a 
pause, " I have another matter to discuss with 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



28s 



you. If all my plans work out right, how would 
you like to go into partnership with Sam Gates and 
myself in a land speculation here? I have made up 
my mind that Bear Hole Swamp is, after all, the 
best site for a reservoir. Once a dam is up and 
such a magnificent power ready at hand and known 
abroad, capital will rush to Oakdale; this harbor 
deepened, land for factories will be in sharp de- 
mand, anr' we three can manipulate matters as we 
see fit. 

" I have, or can obtain capital enough to buy half 
of Oakdale at present valuation; all you need put 
in is your experience and good horse sense." 

" I'll do anything ye want o' me, 'n' dern glad 
to," Uncle Asa assured him with a twinkle in his 
eye, " but ez fer my boss sense — wal, figgerin' on 
the showin' I've made the last few years, ye must 
think I need a keeper? I've seen days arter 
broodin' over that mine stock 'n' smartin' fron 
Martha's sassin', when the only thing I felt like 
doin' war, go to some deep hole in th ■ crick, say 
' Here goes nothin',' 'n' jump in ! I guess I'd 'a' 
done it, too, ef 'twan't fer Hazel." 

" But you landed that wily Otero," responded 
Stacy assuringly, " and I have faith in you. No 
stupid could have bluffed him as you did." Then 
he began a further elaboration of his plans for city 



m 



286 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



m 



\»l 



building, where streets must be laid out and inter- 
sect, a canal constructed along the hillside, where 
factories should be put up to use this power, and 
how in due time a small tleet of coasters would be 
anchored in this secure harbor not ten rods from 
where they now sat! 

Then Uncle Asa, who had I'stened attentively to 
this astounding revelation, spoke up. " Mr. Whip- 
ple," he said, " ef yew hain't got the greatest think- 
out thinker in ycwr attic I ever hecrd on. I'm a goat ! 
Why, ye're jist startin' with a dam up back o' my 
house 'n' grindin' out a whole city full o' people! 
Talk about tlie feller in one o' Hazel's books who 
rubbed the lamp 'n' got anything he wanted — wal, 
he ain't in it a minnit with yew, he ain't. A.11 yew 
got to do is to rub yer head, 'n' a hull city sprouts 
up! " 

" I don't wish and won't allow your quaint old 
house or Maple Dell to be disturbed," asserted 
Stacy, smiling at Uncle Asa's compliment, and castle 
building again. " It is too picturesque and secluded 
a nook for that. I'd like to build a miniature cas- 
cade leaping into a small pond in the brook in front 
of the hou.<:e to keep trout in, however, with rustic 
seats and swans to add charm. I think I shall make 
a trout preserve of the Rocky Glen gorge, also, and 
as Hazel's old sclioolhouse will be out of date then. 



^ 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



287 



I'll set it up in a grove overlooking that for a kind of 
summer house." 

" Ye're figgerin' on livin' here, too, I cal'late," 
interrupted Uncle Asa anxiously. " I hope so, any- 
way." Then he sighed as tlie magnitude and con- 
ception of all these changes and obliteration of old 
landmarks forced itself upon him. " I wish you 
would come 'n' live here," he continued, " fer you'll 
sartinly be the hull thing then? " 

" Well, that depends," returned Stacy musingly, 
and after a long pause. " I have no fixed plans for 
myself in the future, but — if a certain cool and 
sagacious little lady I know became interested in me 
and my new city, I might decide to make it my 
home." 

Then Uncle Asa smiled contentedly. 

" I cal'late she will ef she's o' the same mind ez 
her old dad," he said. 

" Curis, curis, how things come about," he added 
reflectively, " 'n' now, Mr. Whipple, I'm goin' to 
tell ye suthin mebbe ye don't understand. When ye 
fust showed up outen that swamp, razood some but 
still gimpy, I took to ye on sight. I did more th:. 
next day 'n' the next, seein' how kinder philosophic 
ynu took the way them gals desarted ye on the 
beach. But Hazel didn't. She s'pected from the 
start ye war 'nother Curtis Norih here to skin me." 



■ a 



388 



THE CASTLE BUTVDERS 




" I knew it ; have known it all along," interrupted 
Stacy smiling, " but I didn't mind that. What a 
man is, will become known sooner or later whether 
he wills it or not. No man can conceal himself for 
long." 

" 'N' ye noticed, too," continued Uncle Asa, un- 
heeding this and smiling, " how Hazel come down to 
the boathouse jist to meet ye? I didn't ask her to, 
jist said you 'n' I war goin' down the crick this 
afternoon, 'n' — wal, that gal kep' an' eye on me 
every niinnit arter that, 'n' when I started she war 
at my heels like a cat ! You kin bet she's figgered 
yew out all right by now, ef she is my gal." 

Then Stacy, glancing out over and far up the lone 
and lonely shore upon which a long line of inroUing 
billows w:. beating in solemn monotone, smiled con- 
tentedly at this consoling assurance. He had never 
doubted but that it would come in due time ; now it 
had come, and the way was open for a fair and 
manly assault upon the citadel of Hazel's heart ! 

" I think we'd best be starting back," he said, 
consulting his watch after a long five minutes of 
this pleasant retrospection, during which Uncle Asa 
watched him curiously. " We mustn't keep Miss 
Hazel's tea waiting." 

" I think so, too," assented Uncle Asa, rising 
speedily, " 'n' we'll start right now." 



■.' .^: t 



CHAPTER XXIV 

SEVERAL times during his two months' trip 
westward with its frequent recollections of 
Hazel, Stacy had made mental contrast of the 
two meals partaken of at her home — the first a 
charming tete-a-tete one with her as combined serv- 
ing maid and hostess, the second a ceremonious 
affair made uncomfortable by Martha's absurd and 
clumsy flatteries — so that now on returning with 
Uncle Asa to be on time for a third one, he felt 
both curious and uncertain as to how it would pass 
ofif. Also what manner of person this new house- 
keeper would prove to be. 

" Things are a trifle mixed at the house now," 
Uncle Asa had assured him on leaving the boathouse, 
" 'n' Aunt Sally, that I told ye 'bout, ain't quite 
sartin yit jist what is 'spected of her. Hazel is the 
boss, ez I want her to be, but Aunt Sally has notions 
'n' perty sot in 'em ; so ye see it takes time for them 
two to git "malgamated, so to speak. Yew won't 
mind it, though, fer both on 'em'U fee! you're im- 
portant company." 

To be so considered was not to Stacy's liking, 
289 





290 THE CASTLF, BUILDERS 

however, just now. He much preferred to be ac- 
cepted as one of the family, with Hazel as hostess. 
He had no occasion to fear annoyance, though, as 
the sequel proved, or aught to make his anticipated 
meal and evening anytliing but charming. 

To begin with, the maples that embowered Uncle 
Asa's ancient and picturesque abode were a golden, 
glowing mass of foliage in the sunset light as Stacy 
walked up tlie lane, with here and there a cluster of 
scarlet leaves to accentuate the yellow. The arbor- 
vita hedge enclosing the dooryard was of vivid 
green, the flower beds within were flashes of bright 
color, and each added a softening, chastening effect 
to the old brown dwelling, half hid by the two 
monster lilac shrubs. 

" Yew go right into the front door," Uncle Asa 
directed as the yard's gate was reached, " 'n' I'll go 
'round to the kitchen." And so doing, the crowning 
touch of color was added in Hazel herself, who — 
evidently on watch and clad in a rose-hued gown — 
opened that door to meet and greet the arriving 
guest. 

" I am glad to see you so punctual," she said, 
smiling her welcome with a gracious bow. " Walk 
in, and we will await tea in the parlor. Allow me 
to take your hat." 

And just then Stacy felt sure that his face and 



l|i 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 291 

hands needed soap and water, and that his hair must 
be awry. 

" It has seemed quite a long time since you were 
liere," she added, after his greeting, and t)oth were 
seated. " How long is it ? " 

" Just two months and eight days," he returned 
after a moment's thought. "I was last here on 
June twenty-sixth." 

" And summer has almost passed since then, and 
I'm so sorry for I dislike the melancholy days, and 
Nature's demise with dread of winter just ahead." 

" So do I," he responded briskly, " only we in the 
whirl of city life don't notice it as much. To me, 
an autunm day's outing in the country is a rare treat, 
and always eagerly anticipated." 

" Of course because it's a change," with a slight 
sigh, "but if you were forced to watch the falling 
leaves day after day alone, you would feel other- 
wise. But"— smiling again— "tell me, please, 
why you were so — so ungracious last evening 
when, as I assume, you came down to call on me 
and didn't ? " 

" Bashfulness pure and simple, especially simple," 
he admitted, also smiling, " and fear that I should 
spoil the good time you were having. I obtained 
the best of it, however, for let me assure you your 
singing, heard from outside, was charming." 



4 



M 



29a THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

" I shall excuse you on the score of bashfulness, 
then," flushing at this obvious compliment, " and 
trust you may overcome it in the future." And just 
then a tall, angular, and severe-faced lady, slightly 
gray, entered the parlor, bowed graciously to Stacy, 
and said, " Our tea is ready, Miss Hazel," with nod 
to her. 

"This is Miss Perkins, our Aunt Sally, Mr. 
Whipple," said Hazel, rising and tiuis introducing 
them, before leading the way into the dining-room. 
Halting at the seat designated for him by Hazel, 
Stacy now noticed that a new and more modern din- 
ing-table and chairs had replaced the old ones, also 
that there was a pretty and daintily decorated din- 
ner set, and a rug in place of the old, faded rag car- 
pet while this Aunt Sally's very ceremonious and 
deferential, if austere, manner was in pleasing con- 
trast to the red-headed personage who had flattered 
him so nauseatingly. Uncle Asa came in the next 
moment, so jlianged in garb that Stacy scarcely 
knew him. He wore a well-fitting business suit of 
gray, a turndown collar and pretty four-in-hand tie 
instead of the high one and stock of a former oc- 
casion, and looked ten years younger by the change. 
" It's Hazel's doings," thouglit Stacy, and then the 
meal began. 

.\nd now Hazel, conscious no doubt (as Stacy 



THE castlp: builders 



293 



imagined J that their household chanj;e would make 
him feel ill at ease, and yet was one he could not 
question, sliowed her charming tact at once. 

" I have been so anxious to hear about your 
western trip, Mr. Whipple," she began with the 
[Kjuriiig of the tea, " that I can hardly wait for its 
telling. I am interestctl in that wonderful country, 
especially its grand mountains and beautiful scenery, 
as you may recall, and now won't you please tell us 
all about it ? 

" Everything," she add^d, smiling encouragement. 
" no matter what! Indians, if you met any; cow- 
boys shooting up a town, a train holdup, if one hap- 
pened to you — all will be welcome and new to us." 

And thus encouraged and inspired — as well as 
might be by this charming hostess — Stacy, a 
fluent talker, began at once and between times for 
an hour, while the tea biscuit, cold chicken, quince 
sauce, and other delicacies were passed, that trio 
heard a concise yet well-told tale of all he had seen 
or heard during that two months' journey. He 
even touched upon Rawhide and its marvelous 
growth and, to add humor, described McCue and 
quoted his laughable comments upon lynchings, 
shootings, and the fun the " b'ys had in the ould 
toimes, begorra ! " 

All reference to Curtis North was omitted for 



a94 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



obvious reasons, however, and when the meal, or its 
last item — delicious home-grown peaches and pears 
— was disposed of, Hazel arose, led the way back to 
the p.irlor, lit the lamps, and for the first time since 
that one charming hour on the porch two months 
previous, Stacy was alone with her. 

And just now, in tlie soft glow of these shaded 
lights and garbed as she was in rose-tinted raiment, 
her cheeks akin to one of tlic peaches he had just 
devoured, "eyes dancing, lips entrancing" — well, 
suffice it to say that it now dawned on Stacy Whip- 
ple (erstwhile cynical bachelor) that nowhere in the 
wide world had he ever met or was likely to meet 
again, so beautiful and charming a maid! More 
than that, so enamored was he by this time, that only 
his cool good sense and command of himself pre- 
vented a rash and quite premature assertion of that 
fact. 

" Do you know. Miss Webster," he s.iid instead, 
and after they were seated again, " that I have re- 
called your Maple Dell, yourself, and this quaint old 
home of yours countless times since I've been away ? 
Also, and even oftener, the first time I saw you 
under the pine tree and that ghost music I heard 
before I knew its source? You may think it's 
funny, but every time I do so recall that first vision 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



295 



of you, I bcRin huinmiiif; or whistling, ' Don't you 
hear dem bells a-ringing? '." 

" It is funny," slic answered, " also proof conclu- 
sive that you are amenable to the fear of ghosts. 
You thought it was spook music you heard that day 
in the woods, so the scare has kept you humming it 
ever since." 

" I'm willing to allow that," he admitted, smiling 
at her telltale flush, " also that spooks do now and 
then materialize into charming maidens who play the 
auto-harp and frighten easily." 

" And run away from mud-covered ogres," she 
interrupted, " for you were a sight to behold that 
day and " — laugliing now — " all that kept me from 
fainting was the faith that I could run faster than 
you and so escape." 

" I guess you ran in ranre than one sense," with 
an admiring glance, " but I shall not allow it if I 
can help it, you may be sure." Then desiring to 
tease her he added, " By the way, who was the 
exquisite I saw enjoying a cigarette in the hammock 
with you that day two months ago? He certainly 
wasn't an Oakdale product." 

" Oh, that's Arthur Penrose from Barre " — in- 
differently —" a cousin of Molly Bascom's. I met 
liira there two or three winters ago, I think." 



n 







296 



THE CASTLIC BUILDERS 



"And visiting her again, I assume?" Stacy in- 
quired, watching Hazel's face. " 1 thought I saw 
them both here last evening? " 

" They were here," she answered with cool au- 
dacity, " and he is one of my ardent admirers, quite 
devoted ; in fact, here almost every evening, and " 
— smiling saucily — " I wouldn't be surprised if he 
called to-night." 

And then Stacy realized that his teasing plan had 
met with failure. 

" I hope not," he rejoined bluntly ; " I don't want 
the second evening I've had with you spoiled that 
way, for I should imagine he'd want to murder me 
if he so admires you." 

" You wouldn't mind, would you "— with a light 
laugh — " you are used to meeting bloodthirsty men, 
aren't you? " 

And as if to pay him back for his attempt at teas- 
ing, she added, " if he calls, you can retreat to the 
huhvark of the grindstone again, perhaps, and so 
feel safe." 

" Possibly," answered Stacy, also laughing, " if I 
am struck with instant idiocy — not otherwise." 
Then and with a dare-all impulse he continued, " No 
fellow who can't win a girl with two years to try in, 
can scare me away ! " 

And then this one recalled her father's assertion 






THE CASTLE BUILDERS 297 

that Stacy " wa'n't a mite skt -rpd o' a little gal like 
her," with tingling nerve ind sei-,=-> 1 ' admiration. 

And it must be asserte 1. if he had xen timid, or 
shown it in this skirmish • : vorls, l.e would have 
lost ground with her. Like all petite women of 
keen intellect, the one man most likely to win her 
was a big one of dauntless courage. She might 
tease him, exasperate him, defy him, doubtless 
would; but if he won her (as Stacy now meant to 
win her) he must now and then (metaphorically 
speaking) grasp her and shake her as a big terrier 
would a small rodent. 

" I hope you don't really think it was bashfulness 
that led me to hide behind the grindstone last night," 
Stacy continued after a pause, " for I assure you it 
was not ; only a fear that my calling might seem an 
intrusion by you, especially as I hadn't been in- 
vited." 

" I certainly do," she responded in the same ban- 
tering tone, " and now that you deny it so vehe- 
mently I am positive you couldn't have been forced 
to come in at the point of a pistol ! But I must ex- 
cuse you. Mr. Penrose is a dangerous man." 

" Very," ventured Stacy with a tinge of sarcasm, 
" especially if he stormed a powder mill with his 
favorite weapon, a lighted cigarette. Not other- 
wise." 



jii 



-I: 



I'i'. 




■i 



m 



298 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



■' Vou don't admire cigarettes, I assume " — iron- 
ically — " don't you smoke them? " 

Then Stacy smiled at this cool, audacious maid in 
calm serenity, quite sure he read her aright. Also 
her indifference to Arthur Penrose. 

" Oh, yes, I admire them if on the windward side, ' 
he returned suavely, " or at long range. I can't say 
that I do if they happen to be in a hammock with a 
certain saucy young lady I have the honor of know- 
ing, however — in the vernacular, that is different." 

And just then as if fortunately to end what might 
have become a personal discussion. Uncle Asa came 
in with a basket of white birch wood and kindlings. 

" I think I best start a leetle fire," he said, going 
about it. " It sorter takes the chill off, 'n' is more 
cheerful. 

" A fire is a sorter inspirer o' pleasant thoughts," 
he continued, addressing no one in particular and 
lighting a scrap of birch bark, " a kind o' sociable 
friend you kin talk to if lonesum. I used to go 
campin' down on the shore," he added, now seating 
himself and turning to Stacy, " jist fer the comfort 
o' watchin' a fire o' driftwood 'n' hearin' the waves 
a-boomin'. Somehow, thar 'n' then a fire is the 
tiiost consolin' thing on arth, 'n' more so than in the 
woods. It's pleasant thar, o' course, but on the 
shore its light 'n' cracklin' is like a human speerit 



&'*»'' J 



THE C. .STLE BUILDERS 



299 



tryin' to be heard. 'N' then the waves! It's 
s'prisin' jist then, 'n' dark all round, only the fire 
goin', how many kinds o' voices you kin hear in the 
waves. You kin hear children laughin' 'n' cryin', 
wimmen, too, 'n' men yellin' 'n' howlin' ! You kin 
hear bulls bellowin', wild cats howlin', pigs squcalin", 
Iiciis cacklin' ; all sorts o' voices, 'n' sometimes wim- 
men sobbin' like their hearts wuz breakin'. 

" I know a nice spot to camp in, Mr. Whipple," 
he suggested after a pause, " a sorter pocket to the 
right o' whar our table stands. I've got two tents, 'n' 
what do ye say while yew're here to us fakin' Hazel 
'n' Aunt Sally 'long 'n' campin' jist one night ez a 
sorter lark? Hazel kin take her banjo 'long, 'n' 
the moon's jist right? What do ye say. Hazel? 
Will ye go?" 

"Why, yes, of cot she smiled. "I'll go 

anywliere you say, fataer, and do anything you 
wish. And such a trip would be very jolly. Only " 
— pausing — "maybe we had better take Jennie 
Oaks and Molly instead of Aunt Sally. I think 
they'd enjoy it better. And Bertha Phinney, too," 
she added, smihng saucily at Stacy; " she took quite 
a liking to you, Mr. Whipple, and would be pleased 
to meet you afjain." 

" And I shall feel honored by any lady friend of 
yours wishing to meet me," returned Stncy in the 



300 



THE CASTLE BUII-DERS 



'H i- 



m 



same bantering tone, " and I sliall not only be g'ad 
to go and be useful, but say all the sweet things I 
can think of to Miss Phinney." 

" Wal, yew two sartinly don't need no more 
coaxin'," asserted Uncle Asa, " 'n' let's say we go 
day arter to-morrer. I want one diy to go down 
'n' set up the tents." 

" And I'll go and help you," put in Stacy; then 
smiling at Hazel, added, " all the music I've heard 
for two long months, Miss Webster, was surrepti- 
tiously obtained last evening. Now, will you favor 
me personally? " 

And favor him she did for one delightful hour 
and with a repertoire of songs ranging from old- 
time ballads to the modern classic ones that aston- 
ished him ! He had sent her a hit-or-miss colle..ion 
of arrangements for both banjo and auto-harp, with 
a few popular ballads; or.Iy one of which she now 
rendered, and it is needless to say that he now felt 
conscious of his own lack of musical knowledge, 
thus proved. 

;^'it he was wise enough to make no mention 
ii.^reof or ask why she apparently found them of no 
value. 

But Hazel made amends, as was her nature, and 
soon after she ended her charming concert. 

" You mustn't think I do not appreciate your 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



301 



lavish gift of so much music, Mr. Whipple," she 
then explained, " for I do, and it was very kind and 
thoughtful of you to send it. Only I have had 
scarcely time since it came to more than look it over 
and select one gem." 

And Stacy, knowing what had happened to this 
household, felt relieved. 

" I'll be on hand any time you say to-morrow, 
Uncle Asa," Stacy declared when rising to depart, 
" and as the evenings are just right for a campfire 
and moon also, we mr-'t have a jolly time." 

" I think so, too," added Hazel, with cordial 
smile, " and to-morrow Aunt Sally and I will cook 
all sorts of good things to take with us." 

And when Stacy walked down the lane after pro- 
fuse thanks for the evening he had so enjoyed. 
Uncle Asa seemed to him what he was, one of 
Nature's noblemen, brimming with love for all that 
was good and true in humanity, and Hazel the 
rarest, most tactful, charming, piquant and sweet 
girl ever created for man's care and protection. 

And the one instant's tingle of her little hand in 
his proffered one at departure, lasted him all the 
way back to the hotel. 

" In love ? " you ask again. That needs no as- 
sertion. 



iff 



CHAPTER XXV 



m m 



A LETTER from Colby awaiting Stacy at 
the hotel that night on his return from 
Uncle Asa's quite put the charming Hazel 
out of his mind, however, for the time being, and 
set him to thinking. 

Briefly stated, it was to the effect that he had 
better make haste to decide upon the site most de- 
sirable for their dam, and to wire for the two enf^i- 
neers to come on and survey it. Another letter 
enclosed with this from Davis, chairman of the 
Barre Committee, also informed him of what he 
already knew, namely, that a party named Otero 
had bought what he (Davis) supposed was the best 
location for a dam, etc., etc. 

" It might be advisable for you to visit Barre be- 
fore returning," Colby had added, " and pacify this 
Committee. While we have now twenty-two 
months in which to complete contract, we shall need 
to get busy." 

And Curtis Xortli, alias P. Curtis, was yet to be 
reckoned with ! 

302 





THE CASTLE BUILDERS 303 


! 




For an Iiour now after reading these urgent let- 






ters, Stacy sat in his room smoking fiercely, while 






planning how best and how soon he could solve this 






problem, obtain po=sc5sion of Bear Hole Swamp, 






start Curtis North and pal towards Rawhide and 






well-merited punishment, begin the building of the 




t 


dam, and take the first steps towards his intended 




1 


city. 




1 


" I am almost sorry I promised to join Uncle 




J 


Asa's camping-out plan," he said to himself now, 
"but can't back out and don't want to either. 




i 


What an idyllic and romantic old fellow he is, 




- 


after all, to go camping on the beach just to watch 




- 


a fire and hear wave voices. If Hazel has in- 




r 


herited it, she will be doubly charming." 




e 


When breakfast was over, Stacy presented him- 




e 


self to Squire Phinney to make the first move in 







this complex plan. 




t 


"I am," he then said to that worthy after in- 
troducing himself, " planning to buy back the Bear 




- 


Hole Swam;) property recently sold by Uncle As?. 




s 


^Vebster to one Leon Otero, and in the name of his 







daughter Hazel. I want you to fill out a warranty 




d 


deed of it in Otero's name to her by to-night, for 
which I will pay you. In return, also, and if you 




e 


will promise me absolute secrecy in the matter, I 
will, later on, give you information that will en.able 


1 

i:- 

1 


" ■ ?' -tj -i^ 




^^^^^ 



304 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



you to buy sonic land and double your money on it 
in the near future." 

And then Squire Phinney, Iteen to Oakdale's af- 
fairs, a shrewd Yank^'e ever on watch to make a 
dollar and keeping most of all he got, took off his 
spectacles, wiped them, put thetn on again, and 
stared at Stacy while his eyes twinkled. 

" We heered 'bout ye, Mr. Whipple, heered a 
hull lot, 'n' I'm glad to see ye," he said. " 'N' 
I'm glad ye'cr going to git Uncle Asa's land back, 
too. He got 'n' ungodly price fer't, though, ez I 
s'pose ye know, but I didn't like the little weasel he 
sold it to. I'll fill ye out the deed to-day, 'n' keep 
mum ez ye wish, 'n' twon't cost ye but fifty cents fcr 
it." Then he adjusted his spectacles again, leaned 
back in his chair, and surveyed Stacy once more 
with smiling admiration. 

" Be you," he queried the next moment, while 
his mouth twitched, " be you goin' tew — tew give 
Hazel this land, Mr. Whipple? 'Scuse me fer 
askin', but o' course if it's deeded to her, it's hern. 
Mebbe you're cal'latin' to marry her, though ! " 

And then Stacy exploded in a burst of laughter 
at this Yankeeism. 

" If I ever ask and obtain her consent to that im- 
portant step I'll tell you right away. Squire," he 




'Mkhkk Yor'itK cai/i.atix' to mahkv ukr. tihugiiI" 



m 



!l; 



! > 






THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



305 



said, and laughing again he bade this Yankee good 
morning and left his office. 

" I'll bet two to one you don't keep your promise 
about the deed," he asserted to himself after leav- 
ing the Squire's office, " yes, ten to one, for a 
Yankee with such curiosity positively couldn't do 
so ! ' Cal'Iatin' to marry Hazel, mebbe ! ' Well, I 
am if I can," and then, as the humor of it returned, 
Stacy laughed again. 

And he was right in his surmises, for not an hour 
had elapsed after Stacy had bade the Squire good 
morning ere that inquisitive Yankee, first exacting 
a solemn promise from his wife not to tell, told her, 
she in turn did the same by their only daughter. 
Bertha, and latT that day when Hazel came to in- 
vite her to the camping-out party, she also was in- 
formed in an awed whisper that a deed of Bear 
Hole Swamn would be presented her in the near 
future. 

" Maybe he intends it for a wedding present," 
added Bertha, smiling with admiration, " for his 
sending you the two presents he has must mean 
something," whereupon the aforesaid Hazel blusned 
crimson, for she had never admitted receiving these 
gifts to anyone — not even to her father. 

How the arrival of them was known by Bertha 



;t. 



ii 



306 



THE CASTLIC BUILDERS 



i I 



I 



can easily l)c ptiessod from the fact that her intimate 
fritiul, Molly Bascom, sorted all arriving mail in 
Bascoin's store and [wst office combined, and Uncle 
Levi, who brought the express package of books 
and music, was never known to keep a secret longer 
tlian was required to find someone to tell it to. 
hurrying at that! 

But forewarned was forearmed with Hazel ! She 
now knew (as every daughter of Motlier Eve does 
know long beforehand) that this bold fellow was 
fast falliTig in love with her ; and that, in due time, he 
would propose marriage. 

" It will be ' no ' " she said to herself very de- 
cidedly on her way liotnc -from Bertlia's. " No, 
positively no! I will not leave poor dear old dad 
with only Aunt Sally to care for him. never! 
never! But what docs he mean by this deed? To 
l)uy me. is it?" And then the high-spirited Hazel 
tossed her head in a way that boded ill for Stacy. 

And at that very moment the said .'irch-plfjlter 
(according to Hazel) was steering Uncle Asa's big 
dory down the creek, with him at the oars, and in 
it were two tents and poles, two filled bed-ticks, 
and one empty one, and blankets, sheets, and pillows 
— all taken from bis home. Also minor needs for 
camping, enough to fill the boat. 

" We've got a lot to do, my boy," asserted Uncle 



m\ 



THK CASTLIi liUII.DEKS 



307 



Asa, thus addressing Stacy for the first time, as he 
pulled up to the little old wharf, " 'n' none too much 
time," then leaped out, as niiuhlc as a 1)oy, made the 
boat fast, and bejjan unloailiiij;. Stacy, of course, 
assisted with eagerness, and in less than an hour 
the tents were set up within a sheltering sedge- 
topped nook between the sand dunes, sea grass cut 
and spread for carpet in them, old sails laid over 
that, Ik'iIs and blankets put inside, and then Uncle 
Asa began to sliovel sand over the base edge of 
the tents. 

" We've got to make them gals comf'table, you 
know," he said, pausing to pat the sand down with 
his shovel and smiling at Stacy, " ' peshly Hazel. 
Yew think Tm boyish, niebbe, 'n' I s'pose I am," 
he added in half apology, " but I thought a heap 
o' that gal's mother; she's grown up to look 'n' be 
'zactly like her, perfect picter, in fact, every time 
I look at her, 'n' " — sifjhing— " takin' her 'round 
'n' doin' fcr 'cr sorter makes me feel like I was 
cour'iii' afji.i. She begun taggin' me soon ez she 
could toddle, I've carried her pig-a-back more 
miles'n she's weeks old, 'n' we've kept taggin' each 
other ever sence, 'n' now ye kin see why I felt the 
way I did 'bout that money. I jist liain't got 
nothin' nor nobody to live fer 'cept Hazel." 

" So I have observed," returned Stacv, touched 



V fl 



308 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



by the curious pathos of this admission, " and your 
daughter is well worth all the love you lavish on 
her. I don't think you boyish, only an unusually 
affectionate father." 

" It's curis 'bout our feelin's, ain't it? " Uncle Asa 
continued without response to Stacy's assertion, " 'n' 
how they're the injine that keeps us goin' 'n' doin'. 
I worked 'n' scrimped, perfectly willin', to save that 
money fer Hazel, 'n' enjoyed doin' it. I keep 
plottin' 'n' plannin' some fun fer her, this camp- 
out trip was jist fer that, 'n' thar ye be. 

" I've biled life down," he added after another 
pause, " into 'bout this : in order to be happy, you've 
got to hev three things : suthin to do, suthin to love, 
'n' suthin to hope fer. I've got a good deal o' 
the fust two, but the last — wal, it's gittin' thinner 
day arter day." Then, and as if this were enough 
of moralizing, he began shoveling and patting the 
sand again. 

When the tents were all snug and secure he be- 
gan the building of an open fireplace in front, next, 
he made an improvised table from the unhinged 
door of his fish house, then gathered and piled 
handily an ample supply of driftwood. 

" We got to dig some clams 'n' bile some lobsters 
ready to fry," he next proclaimed, glancing at the 
now bare flats. " Likewise steam a mess o' clams 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



309 



fer dinner," and again he led the way to accomplish 
these needs. 

It was ten-thirty when they arrived at this 
seldom-visited beach, and two o'clock before the 
camp was made ready, and frugal dinner of 
steamed clams, coflfee, and bread and butter also 
ready. And then these two men, boys in spirit, now 
sat down to enjoy their meal and a needed rest. 
After this was disposed of. Uncle Asa lit his pipe, 
Stacy a cigar, and the former, as was characteristic 
of him, began a philosophic disquisition on human 
impulses and conclusions that may well be quoted. 

" I hev notions 'n' idees 'bout people, Stacy — I 
s'pose I might ez well call ye so," he began with, 
" that I like to talk 'bout 'n' see ef we agree. Now, 
fer instance, we folks here hev ploughed 'n' planted 
all our lives 'n' never thought beyond that, 'n' long 
yew come, look 'round a little, 'n' discover what not 
one o' us ever s'posed possible. I cal'late, too, yewr 
city will be here — in time — fer I kin see what a 
no-cost power is runnin' to waste in them two 
streams. Only we folks didn't see it ez we might 
if our foresight had been ekal to our hindsight. 
We're livin' way long fifty years back, I cal'late, 
too," he added after a pause, " 'n' some on us is 
still votin' fer Andrew Jackson. But yew've woke 
us up, or will, I guess." 



310 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



-P'fei 



w 



" Perhaps that's true," smiled Stacy, " and the 
wonder to me is that this possibility hadn't been dis- 
covered by someone else long ago; it was so self- 
evident I I probably shouldn't have done so, how- 
ever, if it hadn't been for the needs of Barre and 
call from them to furnish power." 

" Wal, ye ain't inclined to brag much," asserted 
Uncle Asa, " 'n' I like ye all the better fer't. 
Braggin' makes a man 'pear more like a fool than 
tryin' to lift himself by his boot straps, 'n' counts 
'bout ez much. Then agin, most men swar they're 
wuth 'bout ten times what they be, 'n' I alius think 
if I could buy 'em fer what they're wuth 'n' sell 
'em fer what they say, I'd make a stiddy business 
on't. I s'pose it's all right, though, 'n' a man kin 
crow himself into notice ef he's willin' to wear a 
fool's cap ever arter. 

" Then agin, thar's goin' to meetin'," he con- 
tinued after a pause to relight his pipe. " It's all 
right, 'n' I go 'bout once a month, but it's mostly 
to hear Hazel singin', howsomever. 'N' when she 
does I shut my eyes 'n' I'm sartin it's her mother 
up thar in the choir. Ez fer the preachin' — wal, 
if 'twan't fer the hope o' heaven 'n' fear o' hell in 
us all, our parson'ud be out o' a job middlin' soon. 
Wc need preachin', tliough, only I think it orter be 
on how to live to-day 'n' help others do right, 'stead 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



311 



o' makin' us oneasy 'bout the futer. I think if we 
do 'bout ez we'd done by 'n' make folks more 
cheerful, our souls'll take keer o' themselves) I do! 
Ez fer prayin', wal, it's healthy, moral exercise for 
those who b'lieve so, but the meanest man I ever 
knew said grace over the swill 'fore he fed his pigs, 
folks said, so since then I hain't taken much stock 
in't. We need to b'lieve in God, though, with so 
much cussedness goin' on all 'round, fer if we wa'n't 
sartin He ruled the world, we'd be more sartin the 
devil did. 

" Keerin' for wimmen ez they'd orter be," he 
added, " has a good deal to do towards makin' us 
men folks better, I often think, 'n' we kin brag all 
we please 'bout bein' in the image o' God 'n' all 
that sort, but it's my notion 'twas woman's hand 
that pulled man up out o' his original cave 'n' made 
him a gentleman. Ez fer gittin' a harp, 'n' playin' 
that, 'n' smilin' fer all etarnity — wal, I'd rather hev 
a fightin' chance to make up with the woman I keer 
fer, than do that! Then, too, I'd choose Brimstun 
Corner with her ruther'n Harpland without her, I 
would, yew bet! My idee is, it's best to 

" Live, love, laugh, be happy, 'n' pass it along. 
There'll come a day when you'll drap out o' the game." 

" I agree with you most emphatically," responclcd 
Stacy, thinking of Hazel, " and the love of and care 



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THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



for a good, affectionate wife is the most uplift- 
ing and purifying impulse that comes to us men. I 
used to be a scoffer on that point and think other- 
wise, but I am fast changing." 

Who and what had brought this about may easily 
be inferred. 

" I'm sartin ye be," declared Uncle Asa, smiling 
his satisfaction, " fer I've ben watchin' ye 'n' 
studyin' ye out, I'll 'low now. I took to ye at fust, 
but trustin' ye — wal, that has to come later, any- 
how, ez mine has. Thar's only one thing more I'd 
liV-,- to see come," he added after a long pause and 
k>.:n glance at Stacy, " 'n' that is yew'd somehow 
— ef yewr city is built ez ye cal'late — yew'd make 
it yer home. I said that to ye yisterday, 'n' I say 
it agin, more meanin'ly. Then ye want to rec'lect 
this: ye'd be more to hum 'n' a bigger toad in a 
puddle ye dug yerself than in one somebody else 
dug, 'n' don't fergit that ! " 

" I won't," responded Stacy, smiling at his homely 
aphorism, "and as I admitted to you here two 
months ago, my future plans will probably be 
shaped by those of someone else — who, I'll leave 
you to guess." 

And so ended this heart-to-hjart exchange. 

A few more steps towards the perfecting of his 
camping-out plan were next attended to by Uncle 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



3U 



Asa. The lobsters he had boiled were packed in 
a box of ice and placed in the fish house with a 
basket of clams, an opening between the sand dunes 
back of the tents filled with scrub pines to protect 
them from wind, and a carpet of sedge grass 
spread in front. Then, as the sun was now well 
down, they started homeward on the inflowing tide. 

" I'll go up to the house to say ' How do you do ' 
to Miss Hazel," Stacy admitted when the foot of the 
lane was readied. " Also, I want you to let me 
have that mine certificate of yours to photograph 
the signature of Curtis North from. I must go to 
Barre after our camping-out frolic, then on to New 
York to load my gun for this swindler; and when 
everything is ready I shall want you to come to 
Albion and go back there with me to see the fun." 

" 'N' I want to, 'n' to see a lot o' squirmin' on 
the part o' that villain to even up the worryin' I've 
had," rejoined Uncle Asa, quick to grasp Stacy's 
plans. " 'N' I'd like to rub it into that little runt 
some more 'bout B'ar Hole Swamp 'n' the snakes," 
he added chuckling. " I kin 'most see a hull circus 
jist ahead fer me." 

" Ye must stay to supper," he declared when the 
house was reached, " 'n' spend the evenin', too. I 
told Hazel we'd be back in time." 

" No, thank you, I'd better not," asserted Stacy in 



I 



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THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



positive tone. " I expect important letters at the 
hotel, and will wait outside till you bring me the 
certificate." 

But Hazel, probably on the watch, soon appeared, 
and a " Why, Mr. Whipple, you must come in and 
have supper ! " from her came near changing Stacy's 
sensible intention not to overdo his welcome. To 
his credit, however, he declined even her cordial 
invitation with profuse thanks (and lost nothing 
by it), and wlien departing, carried away a hastily 
gathered bouquet of flowers presented by her. 

To him, just now they seemed suggestive of his 
easy and enjoyable pathway to her hea''t. He had 
forgotten his suspicion that Squire Phinney would 
betray him, however, and did not realize that that 
fatal deed of Bear Hole Swamp would in due time 
torture him even more than its original had done. 



i \ 



CHAPTER XXVI 

WITH a warm, bright September day, the 
sun softened by an ambient haze, the 
wind a mild zephyr, the sea blue, spark- 
ling and fringed with prattling wave-wash; also 
four bright, vivacious, and pretty girls, not to men- 
tion Uncle Asa with his droll optimism, and Stacy 
the sole gallant upon that day's outing — well, if 
he failed to appreciate his good fortune and enjoy 
it all, it was his own fault. 

He did not enjoy it, though, as the sequel proved, 
or rather it ended in a fit of sulks for him. 

Miss Jennie Oaks, almost as keen at repartee as 
Hazel, together with the latter, kept his wits work- 
ing overtime, however, as the saying goes; Mollie 
Bascom, plump and jolly, with Bertha Phinncy, also 
rotund and amiable, were one and all conspiring 
factors to a rare day of simple country seashore 
enjoyment. 

They romped on the beach, the girls, having suits. 

went in bathing — Stacy, having none, got left in 

tliis; they dug clams late- when the tide .served; the 

dinner was a feast of sea food cooked by Uncle 

315 



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til' 

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316 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 






Asa, with many delicacies added from their home 
by Hazel ; seashells were gathered and wild flowers 
to deck tents and table, and when the sun, red 
as a ball of fire, was sinking behind the hill tops, 
and the evening meal of fried lobster and salad 
of the same prepared by Hazel all ready, the gnis, 
at least, voted the day so far a great and glorious 
success. 

Uncle Asa's fire of driftwood, started with the 
twilight, came next, the moon rose in red splendor 
out of the now motionless ocean, and when blankets 
were spread between tents and fire, the party 
seated upon them, and Hazel began to tune her 
banjo — the only other sounds, except modulated 
voices were the crackle of the burning fire and 
the low murmur of the near-by ocean. 

"This is soothin', comfortin'. 'n' consolin' all in 
one," ejaculated Uncle Asa, now seated beside and 
leaning against a tent while he smoked and glanced 
at the group of smiling faces. " Likewise, ez I 
cal'late, 'bout ez near to heaven ez we'll git on 
arth," whereupon Hazel gave him a tender glance 
that spoke volumes. 

" Its romance and happy escape from conven- 
tionalities is its best charm to me," responded Stacy, 
" or rather its semblance of return to primitive con- 
ditions of life." 



ij 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



317 



" You mean ' the world forgotten and by the 
world forgot,' " queried Hazel smilingly, " or is it 
the joy of utter isolation that adds that charm? " 

" I wouldn't care to be here alone," added the 
more matter-of-fact Molly. 

" Nor 1," chimed in Bertha. " No all-alones for 
me or Robinson Crusoe meditations. I want com- 
pany, fun, laughter, and companions." 

But conversation among six is usually a dismal 
failure, and Hazel, quite conscious of this, soon 
picked up her banjo and within five minutes all 
the girls were joining in her long list of plantation 
ballads, and so the evening passed. 

To Stacy, however, the day with its need of ac- 
tion, of doing something, was the most enjoyable; 
and then, somehow, he, quick to catch others' moods 
and emotions, imagined that Hazel's was not in 
harmony with his or him. She was charmingly po- 
lite and interested in all he said, gave him now and 
then the consolation of inferred praise or commen- 
dation, played the hostess with her invariable 
thought fulness, but beneath all this he suspected 
that she still distrusted him, or was chilled from 
some unknown source. 

This intuition had also kept him from joining in 
or attempting to inspire general conversation after 
they gathered about the fire, and keenly critical of 



t I I 



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1 1 1 



318 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



the art of polite small talk in others, he saw that it 
was all ' ced and stilted. He was not disposed to 
sulk, only sure that no one was seriously anxious 
to talk, and very glad when Hazel put ai.. end to 
it with her banjo and songs. To watch u r supple 
lingers skip up and down the strings, or sweep 
across them, and her exquisite face and expressive 
eyes reflecting the firelight, was of far more in- 
terest than exchanging polite phrases with the other 
girls, with whom he as yet was scarcely acquainted. 

And then he smoked fiercely, steadily, and per- 
sistently, cigar after cigar, as was his way when 
worried, or thinking out some problem. 

By and by, when the evening had grown more 
chill, the fire less bright, and Hazel having con- 
cluded her songs with " Suvvanee River," and then 
fallen to picking the chords of " Mamma's Little 
Alabama Coon," he arose, piled more fuel on the 
glowing embers, then lay down beside them, intently 
watching the uprising flames. 

And just then, as Hazel laid her banjo aside, there 
came from Uncle Asa's bowed head a faint snore 1 

It served as a signal, alsf , for on the instant 
Hazel arose with a smiling glance at her father, 
up came the othei jirls in one-two-three order, 
nodded and whispered good-nights to Stacy, and 
vanished into their lent. 



?■*: 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



3'9 



For another long five minutes Stacy lay where 
he was, tl en out from her tent came Hazel, stepped 
to where her father sat dozing, stooped and patted 
his face. " You must wake up, father," she said, 
" and go to bed; you will catch cold." Then, half 
lifting him, she led him into his tent. 

In a moment she emerged and glanced at Stacy, 
still recumbent. " You have not enjoyed this even- 
ing overmuch, have you? " she half whispered with 
faint smile. 

" Oh, yes, fairly well," he returned ; " your sing- 
ing especially, and the romance of this spot. About 
all I expected. I am like the tramp." he added, after 
a pause, " who asserted that a long career of ad- 
versity had taught him to hope for everything and 
expect nothing." 

" An excellent conclusion," she responded, quickly 
taking two steps towards her own tent, then halt- 
ing, "but — but hadn't you better turn in, too? I 
— I am afraid it's lonesome out here." 

For a long moment she gazed at him sidewise. 
hair curiously, half pleadingly, while he, after one 
flash of his imperious eyes at her, turned to the 
fire again. 

" I wish you would," she added more pleadingly. 
"I — I don't feel right to desert you in this way." 

Only for another moment did this proud girl 



!■» 'I 

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3» 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



thus proffer the olive branch and await response 
in vain, then came a second " good night," and she 
vanished into her tent. 

"Father was right," she said to herself; "he is 
sulky." 

And so he was, not intentionally perhaps, yet hurt 
by the continued cool indiff-ri i.cc of this girl he 
had planned and plotted so much for. He knew 
that she now realized that the rescue of her heritage 
from the swindler was entirely from his personal 
thought anr' ffort. He had not expected thanks — 
as yet. 'lad not even wished for them, or any men- 
t'or - ■ what he had done. Only he had expected 
tK ;it jometime during the day — a day he had prac- 
tically stolen from pressing business needs — she 
would have shown him a trifle of gratitude, or wish 
for his happiness beyond ordinary, conventional po- 
liteness — just once! 

She had been gay, jolly, full of good spirits and 
humor; played hostess at both meals in gracious 
manner, sang a long list of plantation songs and 
ballads without urging, shown the tendercst filial de- 
votion to her father, and — polite coolness to him ! 

And just now with the moon sailing high over- 
head, the low monotone of the ocean not five rods 
away, the fire a mere glow of dying embers, and 
the only other sound, except the persistent wave- 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



321 



wash, an occasional call from some marsh bird, 
Stacy felt akin to the solitude and loneliness of his 
surroundings. 

" It can't be helped." he said '" himself philosoph- 
ically, after a long resume of the day's disappoint- 
ments. " If a woman will, she will, and if she 
won't, she won't, and that's the end on't, ns the 
old rhyme says. It may be. too. that this feeling 
of obligation begins to gall her. It works that way 
sometimes. Or perhaps she imagines that I prac- 
tically expect her to ofTer herself as payment for 
what I've done! There is no telling how a girl 
of her spirit will interpret any m.in's actions. I 
guess I had better keep away from Oakdale another 
month. Miss Hazel Iceberg, and let you see I am 
not expecting anything — not even friendship!" 

All of which must be accepted as proof conclusive 
that Stacy was what Hazel had thought him — 
sulky. Also blessed with a correct conception of 
how she felt towards him. 

And that fit of pique, that hour of lonely night 
meditation with only the ocean's voice, and a dying 
fire for consolation, so impressed him, so convinced 
him of the wisdom of keeping away from the cool, 
piquant Hazel for a time at least, that he now 
determined to do so — and did until circumstances 
forced another meeting. 



m 



333 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



I 



I 



Wm 



And just now, so sore at heart was he and so 
little in the mood for sleep, that he heaped more 
fuel on the fire, pulled a blanket out from the tent 
where Uncle Asa was contentedly snoring, wrapped 
himself in it, lit another cigar and hugged his fit of 
sulks until midnight, then turned in. 

He didn't know, fortunately, that Hazel remained 
wide awake during that almost two-hour vigil, that 
she twice peeped out to see him prone beside the 
fire, and that not until she heard him enter his tent 
did sleep come to her; also was perfectly conscious 
how he felt, an:l the reason for it. 

Uncle Asa was up and out with the coming of 
dawn, and had a cheerily blazing fire going when the 
four rather dishevelled girls emerged from their 
tent. 

" Thar's a pail o' fresh water I brought from 
the spring up back 'ii' left in the fish house, gals," 
he said, after greeting them, " 'n' some soap 'n' 
towels," and Hazel, who had wisely brought comb 
and brush, led tlie way to it. Stacy appeared soon 
after, and with his own toilet accessories betook 
himself to the wharf for ablutions. Breakfast was 
not as interesting a meal as the others ha<I been; 
conversation was as limp, damp, and sticky as the 
table-spread and dishes, and not until the rising sun 
had cheered and warmed everybody was there any 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



323 



exhibition of good spirits. When the inflowing tide 
made returning possible, Uncle Asa stowed the 
roUed-up bed clothes and dishes in the two boats, to- 
gether with most of their lighter camp outfit, then 
called out that they were ready. 

" One o' you gals kin go in the small boat with 
Mr. Whipple," he said, as they all gathered on the 
wharf, " 'n' t'other three with me in the big un. 
That'll balance up." 

And then came the question of who should be the 
one for Stacy to take. 

Hazel, who had covertly watched him all the 
morning to measure his mood, but not once allow- 
ing her eyes to meet his, solved it in an instant. 

" You go with Mr. Whipple, Jennie," she said to 
her Barre friend, decisively, " for he knows a few 
people in your city and you can tell him all about 
them." And piqued still more by Hazel's self-evi- 
dent wish to avoid a tete-a-tete boat trip with him, 
Stacy assisted his selected companion into the small 
boat, and the start was made. 

Of course these two had to talk now, and whether 
from an intuitive conception of Stacy's feelings to- 
wards Hazel, or spirit of mischief, will never be 
known, but the subject the fun-loving Jennie 
chose to enlarge upon and describe was her several 
visits to Oakdale, and enjoyment of them with 



ill 
I, 



3«4 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



I 



Uncle Asa's geniality and aid, also how Mr. Arthur 
Penrose was very much enamored of Hazel, with 
laughing comments upon his attentions and hopes in 
that connection. Then after almost an hour of 
this chatty and delightful ( ?) gossip, while he 
smoked fiercely and rowed more so, she added a 
final thrust by assuring him that she was going to 
remain in Oakdale another week, and had persuaded 
Mr. Penrose to stay also. 

"We have a lot of fun all planned out," she 
added, as a last sip of wormwood tea to Stacy, 
" or Mr. Penrose has. He is going to take us all 
on a straw ride to the shore one day and to go bath- 
ing. We shall dig clams, of course, and cook them 
in the big pot Uncle Asa keeps in his fish house, 
and come home by moonlight. Then we girls are 
going to have a picnic in a grove up back of Hazel's 
schoolhouse, with a lot more, and there is a pavilion 
there to dance in. If you are going to be here, of 
course you can consider yourself invited to the pic- 
nic. Will you join us?" 

" I thank you, and I assure you I should enjoy 
it," Stacy responded in ironical tone, " but I am 
sorry to say that I must leave this afternoon. I 
am only here on a business trip, so to speak. In 
fact, I stayed over a day just to go on this outing." 



ii! i 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



325 



And all the while he felt that he would like to 
throw the dudish, cigarette-smoking Mr. Penrose 
into this creek at low tide, and watch him wade 
out of the mud! 

Stacy arrived at the boat landing ahead of Uncle 
Asa, waited there with his voluble companion until 
he came, and when the party had all filed up the 
long board walk and halted at the foot of the lane, 
Stacy made his adieu with the best grace possible. 

" I am sorry, my good friends, but I must leave 
you now," he asserted, consulting his watch and 
surveying the group with a smile. " I had planned 
to go to Barre yesterday on some special business ; 
now I must go, and return to Albion to-night." 

" I wi.shed ye could stay longer," responded Uncle 
Asa regretfully, " but business is business, I s'pose. 
Hadn't I best hitch up, 'n' take ye to the train? I'd 
like to." 

" No, thank you ; I've a little matter to talk over 
with Sam," declared Stacy brisk' " and he is to 
take me up." 

And then Hazel also proffered a quite uninten- 
tional sip of wormwood tea to Stacy. 

" Molly's cousin from Barrc has a straw ride to 
the shore planned for day after to-morrow," she 
said. " Can't you come back and join us, Mr. 

» 



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326 



THF CASTLE BUILDERS 






I i 



Whipple? I — we would all be delighte'l to have 
you." And to Stacy's credit, he took his dose with- 
out a grimace. 

" No, I thank you all very much, but I can't pos- 
sibly," he answered smiling. 

" You'd better relent and say yes," urged Molly. 
" Artie is the only gentleman, and we need two 
to take care of us." 

" No, no, many thanks, but I positively can't," 
declared Stacy again. " I thank you all for this 
jolly outing, and hope I may have another some day 
— good-bye," and turned and left them. 

A half hour later and after Hazel's three girl 
friends were returning villageward, a little exchange 
between them must now be quoted. 

" I think he's perfectly splendid," asserted Jennie 
Oaks, " and all over eyes in love with Hazel besides. 
But he was so mad because she didn't offer to come 
up in the boat with him, he acted like a bear. I 
couldn't get him to talk for a long time. Why 
didn't she, girls ; he is such a catch ? " 

" I know," responded Bertha Phinney sagely, 
" and I have put my foot in it, I guess." 

"Oh, how? Tell us," chorused the other two 
eagerly; "how did you?" 

" Promise me never to breathe it, hope to die you 
won't," demanded Bertha in awed whisper. 



^pir^twT* r> latiir'j^ 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



327 



" Oh, yes, yes, tell us quick," they both promised 
as one, and halting to hear the mysterious secret. 

" Well, I've no business to tell you," declared 
Bertha, " for I promised mother not to, but — 
but " — whispered — " he has had a deed of Bear 
Hole Swamp made out in Hazel's name, and father 
thinks he is going to buy it back from that man 
Uncle Asa sold it to, and give it to Hazel ! What 
do you think of that, girls? " 

" Oh I Oh I Isn't it grand I " asserted Molly. 
" He certainly means to marry Hazel if he can! " 

" And I told Hazel yesterday," admitted Bertha 
in penitent tone. 

" Then you have put your foot in it," rejoined 
Molly, vehemently. 

" Both feet," added Jennie, " and that explains 
why she was so crusty to him all day. You have 
done a foolish thing, Bertha ! " 

And so she hud, and in a very effective way. 

" I dunno why you didn't offer to come back in 
the boat with Mr. Whipple; why didn't ye, girlie? " 
Uncle Asa queried of Hazel later on when alone 
with her. " I kinder thought you would, 'n' — 'n' 
I kinder wanted to hev ye." 

" I had my reason, father," she answered firmly, 
" for he would have thought I was anxious to be 
alone with him, and I am not." 



n i 



;l 



CHAPTER XXVII 



i', 
I 

! „ 
■ i '■ 



WTH Stacy now, to bring about a culmina- 
tion of his plans and accomplish some- 
thing, there seemed need of quick action. 
Time was speeding, their contract with the Barre 
Committee called for completion within two years, 
then specified payment for power delivered for a 
period of ten, and after that the town of Barre had 
agreed to reimburse the firm of Bemis, Colby & 
Company for all outlay, plus ten per cent., and own 
the land, dam, and power hou.ic, or continue to pay 
rental, and the aforesaid firm to retain ownership if 
they so chose. There was also a clause that if the 
two parties failed to agree upon rental after the ten 
years had expired, it should be left to arbitration. 
And it ia needless to say that the keen Stacy had 
made the ten years' rental high enough to cover 
the probable cost of all outlay except the original 
one for land. 

His main purpose in visiting Barre now was to 
assure its Committee that power would be ready 
for delivery on time: with a minor one, to meet 
32S 



w 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



329 



and see what manner of man this J. Smith Alton 
was, who, while a member of that Committee, had 
probably betrayed its intentions and contract to La 
Rosa Carmen, and she to Otero, as he was positive. 

He arranged by telephone that Davis, chairman 
of this committee of five, should meet him at the 
hotel within an hour after his arrival, assured him 
that he had a suitable site purchased, and should 
have it surveyed and begin work within a month; 
also that they need have no fear but that power 
would be ready for Barre's use within the time 
specified. 

" But what about the story I've heard of this 
man, Otero, having bought the site you intended to 
use, the Bear Hole Swamp?" queried Davis after 
this. " What is his game ? " 

" Extortion, plain, ordinary extortion," returned 
Stacy, smiling. " He heard through a woman, 
named Carmen, what your plans were and ours. 
Came here with a backer of his named Curtis North, 
alias Pentecost Curtis, both unprincipled .sharpers. 
They nosed and moused around until I arrived, 
then this Otero met me with a fake proposition 
about furnishing us with contract labor, and later 
on — as I planned to let him — bought Bear Hole 
Swamp of its owner, Asa Webster, at a stiff price. 






n 



'jtl 



I 






330 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



The other site, the one I wanted, I had already 
bought, however," and Stacy smiled knowingly, as 
one who had euchred the other fellow most effec- 
tively. 

"But who gave our plans away?" demanded 
Davis. " I'd like to know that right now. It was 
despicable ! " 

" Rather," drawled Stacy, stroking his mustache 
and smiling serenely. " But I am not mixing in 
on that. I've got a deed of an elegant site, the 
Rocky Glen Gorge, duly recorded. We shall have 
our dam built and contract completed on time, and 
Messrs. Otero, Curtis, and Carmen, et al., can use 
Bear Hole Swamp to fish in summers if they like. 
It's an elegant spot for that purpose — I tried it! 
And never did I flounder and crawl through a 
more impassable morass, with Mohawk briars so 
thick you couldn't cut through them, and black flies 
by the billion ! I'd give a cool hundred to drop this 
Miss Carmen into it on a hot July day," and Stacy 
chuckled at the humor of it. 

" You know her then? " queried Drv!s curiously. 

" By reputation, and her assistance to these two 
sharpers," returned Stacy adroitly. " She has a 
character and name much like this swamp." 

" But who gave ,.ur plans away, I want to know," 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



331 



again demanded Davis ; " have you any idea, Mr. 
Whipple?" 

Then Stacy glanced at a Knight Templar charm 
which Davis wore, looked around the hotel office to 
see no one was near, and back to Davis again. 

" You are a K. T., I observe," he said in a low 
tone ; " so am I. And now on the square, and under 
the is Mr. J. Smith Alton a Mason? " 

" No, damn him, no I " almost shouted Davis, in- 
stantly realizing who had so betrayed a trust. 
" He has been playing fast and loose for some time 
here now, owes everybody he can to the iimit, and 
— by Jove, I see it all, and it's politics! He has 
been alderman, councilman, and up again for that 
this fall. I don't like him or any man of his morals, 
but he was forced onto the Committee. And so it's 
him, is it? " 

" Well, I have almost conclusive proof that it is," 
returned Stacy in convincing tone. " He has been 
sporting around with this Camien woman this sum- 
mer in Albion. A trusted clerk in my office over- 
heard her tell this Otero that he gave your plans 
away to her, and she admitted recei\ ing a diamond 
bracelet as a go-between, and promise of graft 
from some source. These avv the facts ; pitcc thtin 
together as you please and form your ou\i >i>ik1u- 



■ 
li 



333 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



sions. I am not charging your Mr. J. Smith Alton 
with anything. But I shall try to play the Bemis, 
Colby & Company hand without losing tricks, 
however. Later on, when I am here again. Brother 
Davis, I'll tell you another story of more interest. 
In the meantime, and without being quoted, I 
might suggest that this city could elect a substi- 
tute for J. S. Alton, with benefit to itself. Also, 
if he owes you anything, the sooner you collect it, 
the better." 

And that night when Stacy boarded the last train 
to Albion he felt that he had partially squared him- 
self with one sneak. 

" The world is full of them," he said to him- 
self, returning to cynicism again. " They crop up 
on all sides and in all walks. Graft rules our city 
politics, chicanery and trickery are all about, and 
trusts dominate business, with railroad rebating to 
assist them." 

A lurking sense of annoyance over the outcome 
of his visit to Oakdale also vexed him, and visions 
of the cigarette-smoking Penrose intruding; also of 
him posing as the master spirit of the coming straw 
ride and attentions to Hazel. Stacy wasn't jealous 
exactly, yet that green eyed monster was blinking 
at him from obscurity in vexing manner. 

" I think I acted like a fool," he admitted to him- 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



333 



self after an liour of this meditation white the 
train sped on. " When she came out to send her 
father to bed and gave me a ch^ince to say a nice 
word, I only sullced like a jackanapes, as I was." 

It was past midnight when he arrived in Albion. 
A sevt.'11-hour sleep, bath, good breakfast, some 
coddling and soothing words from his aunt re- 
stored his spirits ; on the way down town he bought 
a New York paper, glanced over it for an adver- 
tisement of Curtis & Company, then almost shouted 
with satisfaction, for now a new one stared at 
him in the sliape of an offer of two shares of the 
Passaic Reclaiming Company common stock, par 
value one hundred dollars each, to all purchasers 
of a house-lot at four hundred dollars. This oflEer, 
so that advertisement stated, would last for only a 
few days. It had the usual flamboyant big-type 
caption, with footnote, to write for map of the 
company's property, and make selection before the 
best lots were all ,aken. 

" We'll take a fall out of you, Mr. Pentecost 
Whiskers," Stacy said to himself after perusing 
this, " and soon, too ! I must get busy now ! " 

He did, too, for after an hour's fiiscussion of 
their own affairs with Colby, he went to a pho- 
tographer's, had copies of the Pentecost Curtis 
signature made from a leaf of the Barre Hotel 



I , 



u 



If 



1^' 



334 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 




register (which he had bought from its clerk for 
one dollar), two of the Curtis North one on Uncle 
Asa's mine certificate, and soitie of that swindler's 
own face and watch fob. Then, after a consulta- 
tion of time-tables, he wired Harkins to meet him 
in New York at the Holland House with Tygson 
and the necessary requisition papers, and to wire 
answer when. 

With so much accomplished towards his new trap 
for these two villains, he next set about the prepara- 
tion of a write-up of Curtis North, alias Pentecost 
Curtis, and confederate, Leon Otero. Their his- 
tory, detailing their occupation and adventures in 
Rawhide, with dates and incidents; their visits to 
Oakdale and Barre, present location and business, 
even condensed as Stacy wrote it, made a lengthy 
document. He had two typewritten copies made of 
it, attached the several photographs, and then felt he 
was ready, as indeed he was. 

It took him nearly all day, and after the close 
of business, as Ike was leaving the office, Stacy 
took him one side for consultation. 

" Well, my boy," he said, " did you put a thorn 
into that Otero's side while I was away? " 

" I did and a long one," returned Ike, buoyantly, 
" the very night you left here. I made the rounds 
of the hotels, found he was stopping at the New 



THE CASTLIC BUILDERS 



335 



City, and that eve I strolled in about seven, had 
a friend on watch, and when Otero came out of 
the dining-room, my friend came in, greeted me 
cordially, then we took seats near Otero, and 
my friend told me the great joke he recentl; licard 
in Barre. Put on all the frills, too, alx)ui. know- 
ing Davis of the Committee, and how Bemi >. Colby 
& Company were going right ahead lo dam the 
Rocky Gorge brook for their power siu Oh, it 
worked fine, and the little pup kept td!?i"< h!? 
chair up to us so as not to miss a word. Two 'l.ijs 
after I sent my friend around to the hotel, a.id 
found that Otero left town the day after we workvi 
the spell on him." 

" Good ! good ! " rejoined Stacy, " and now ket'p 
quiet. I may want you to do a little more sleuth- 
ing later on." And Stacy hurried away, for he 
had many matters to attend to. 

Next day, to make sure of his ground, or rather 
to know what steps Harkins must take in order to 
arrest both Curtis North and Otero and take tliem 
back to Nevada, if that should be decided upon, 
Stacy consulted their attorney, and stated the case, 
using no names, however. And now, armed with 
his deadly parallel write-up, with photographs of 
Curtis North, his watch fob. original signature, and 
later alias attached to b jth, ;i ' this legal dictum 



\i 



ii 



336 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



fl! 



for guidance, Stacy, feeling that he held the winning 
hand, went to their office once more. 

And there awaiting him was a telegram from 
Harkins : 

" Meet you at Holland, the fourteenth. Get let- 
ters to enable me to obtain extradition." 

" Of course ! " exclaimed Stacy gleefully. " And 
now, my friend, I have you on the hip ! " 

And then Colby faced around from his desk and 
favored Stacy with a half-humorous and decidedly 
sarcastic smile. 

" Say, old man," he ejaculated with a broader 
grin, "you are busier than a dog full of fleas! 
Here you've been in town two days, and this is 
the first time you've paused to sit down' 'Vhat's 
eating you, anyhow ? Hath love made you mad ? " 

" No, but Curtis North has," rejoined Stacy, 
smiling and getting at the point at once, " and we've 
got to have that Bear Hole Swamp for our reser- 
voir, and just now Curtis North or Pal Otero holds 
a deed of it. Paid Uncle Asa, ' Uncle Rube ' you 
call him, nine thousand, five hundred for it ! " 

" Well, I don't wonder you've got fleas," 
chuckled Colby. " What do you propose to do 
about it ? " 

" Why, twist this villain, and make him or Otero 
sign a deed for it for one dollar and other considera- 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



337 



tions, said considerations being what I've been work- 
ing up the past two days," asserted Stacy, buoyantly. 
" I've got him where I want him! " 

" You think you have," responded Colby with 
sarcastic smile. " Now I know the shortcake maid 
has upset your sanity! Why, man alive, you 
couldn't scare that old reprobate with a hangman's 
noose 1 " 

" He will see one dangling before I'm done with 
him," asserted Stacy, lighting a cigar and tipping 
back in his chair to enjoy himself. " And now, my 
boy, I've another bombshell for you and a scheme 
to make a million, you and I ! Bear Hole Swamp 
will make a reservoir big enough to turn ten thou- 
sand spindles or run a score of shops at practically 
no investment for us except the power plant. We 
shall buy the land below it, dike the power along for 
a mile or so, dig out a nice harbor close by, adver- 
tise the layout, and in two years sell land at any 
old price, and you are in on the game ! There's mil- 
lions in it, my boy ! " 

" Going to build a shop and start making eye- 
wash, my dear Colonel Sellers," rejoined Colby. 
" or some new kidney cure from your swamp 
roots?" Then in, comnr' ■aerating tone, "I first 
thought it was love madness, my poor fellow ; now 
I know you've got incipient paresis or need a 



ill 
ill 



338 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



W 
"?(. 



m^' 



strait-jacket 1 Better go back to your sweet sim- 
plicity, sing coon songs with her evenings, and boss 
our workmen daytimes. This hallucination will 
blow over in due time." 

" Bet you an even hundred I succeed with old 
Curtis North," responded Stacy defiantly, " and 
you're not in on the land deal, either. Give me a 
check for five hundred. I'm going to New York 
to-night." 

" That sounds natural and familiar, anyhow," 
laughed Colby, filling one out. " I shan't give up 
hope for you yet. I think the Oakdale girl is the 
only cure for you, however." And so the interview 
ended. 

Stacy's next move was to write to Uncle Asa, 
bidding him make ready and come to New York on 
the night train out of Oakdale on the twelfth, and 
promising to meet him there on his arrival. 

Before signing it, he paused to consider an addi- 
tional plan in this connection. 

"Why not ask him to bring Hazel along?" he 
said to himself. Then after a long deliberation 
added, " No, she'll think I'm too anxious ; and as 
her pa would say, ' Don't try to bake till your oven's 
hot, my boy,' " then signed and sealed the letter. 

A little of the Mother Eve in Hazel came to the 
surface when this letter arrived, for she, recogniz- 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



339 



ing Stacy's writing, watched her fathei curiously 
while he read it. 

" Did — did he say anything about his visit here 
and the camping-out party ? " she queried naively 
and with well-simulated indifference. 

Then Uncle Asa, who could read her mind as 
easily as she could his, smiled benignly with a 
twinkle in his eyes. " No, girlie," he responded, 
watching her, " Oakdale's only a flag station in his 
life, 'n' I cal'late he's forgot ye by now. He wants 
me to meet him in New York in three days 'n' we're 
goin' to hev a lot o' fun with that mine sharper! 
Oh, I've got a hull circus a-comin', I hev, 'n' a 
chance to sass him good 'n' hard in the bargain. 
I jist can't wait till I git at him. 'N' the little 
weasel, too," he added after a chuckle. " I've a 
great notion to ketch a few snakes 'n' take 'em 
along in a box ez a reminder to him, I hev ! By the 
great horn spoon, I will, too ! " 

And he did. 






CHAPTER XXVIII 



15' 5 



FOR over six months now, or since early 
spring, Curtis North — as we must call him 
— had devoted about all his time and atten- 
tion, also considerable money, to the launching and 
development of his new swindling scheme of the 
Passaic Reclaiming and Development Company. 
He began by buying about one hundred acres of salt 
marsh land along the bank of this ocean estuary, 
whose only value was its annual crop of coarse hay 
and a few billion mosquitoes, also obtaining options 
on a thousand or more acres (three-quarters of the 
pajTnent specified to be in company stock if taken), 
then had it surveyed, a map made showing a bird's- 
eye view of an embryo city with avenues, streets, 
a few houses along the bordering riier, a wharf 
with pleasure boats alongside, and a well-loaded 
excursion steamer nearing it, and otlier details usu- 
ally thrown in by keen artists who prepare these 
alluring baits to catch the unwary. He also hired 
a few Italians with a manager and set them at work 
driving spiles and building a cheap wharf on the 
340 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 341 

river border and midway of liis land, also ditching 
alongside and filling in a roadway to the upland. 

" We've got to make a bluflf in order to scoop the 
suckers," he asserted to Otero buoyantly when be- 
ginning this work. " It's money thrown into the 
mud, I know, but it must be done, and I'll make 'em 
pay it back tenfold." 

In the meantime, he talked continuously, per- 
sistently, and like an oracle among his Wall Street 
acquaintances about his plans and prospects of 
money-making, handed out hundreds of his maps 
to all who would glance at tliem, left bunches in 
hotel offices, scattered them in depot waiting-rooms, 
hired boys to tuck them under doors in residential 
streets, paid a daily paper a round sum for a two- 
column write-up, and, in short, adopted the usual 
and invariable methods of exploiting such scliemes. 
Then, timing his advertisement? for the sale of 
bonds at the time when public curiosity was aroused 
sufficiently, he found scores of fatuous buyers for 
them. Strange as the fact may seem, a good many 
were among the keen-wilted cult of Wall Street. 
His next move, and brought about by the usual 
methods of stock gamblers, was to get both the 
common stock and bonds of his swindling company 
listed on the curb — that indefinite mart where all 






34* 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



n 



I 



such often worthless securities are traded in; an 
arena, so to speak, where these speculative liars toss 
worthless dice back and forth to amuse themselves, 
and get one another short or long as the case may 
be. 

Of course this resulted in the daily quotations of 
the P. R. & D. stock and bonds in all papers, and 
accomplished what he intended — a still wider pub- 
licity for his scheme. He would also now and then, 
aided by a confederate or two, engineer a small 
comer in the P. R. & D. marked cards, get a few of 
the gay and festive crowd of gambltrs short of 
them, and laugh in his sleeve when they bid them up 
in a scramble to cover. 

He had also sold about fifty thousand dollars 
worth of the quarter-million of bonds he had had 
printed when Otero, via Carmen and her friend, J. 
Smith Alton, gave him what seemed a wide-open 
chance to work a side-swindle by buying the in- 
tended dam site selected by Bemis, Colby and Com- 
pany, and making them pay smartly for it. 

And, as Stacy surmised, it was La Rosa Carmen 
with her unholy desire to avenge her desertion by 
him and her influence upon Otero, that brought this 
about. 

The investment of the ten thousand dollars in 
this was a mere bagatelle to Curtis North, however. 



ii, 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



343 



and only done to give his faithful ally, Otero, a 
pat on the back and a chance to make a few thou- 
sand to spend upon his adored countrywoman. 
Carmen. 

" You can run that scheme to suit yourself, boy, 
and have all the fun and half the profit," he said to 
Otero in grandiloquent tone upon drawing a check 
for that amount. " Be careful not to mix me up 
in the deal, however, and don't get caught yourself. 
All I want is to give you a chance to show your 
smartness, and my money back as soon as these 
contractors settle." 

He little realized how deep a pit was being dug 
for himself, how the would-be biter would get bit- 
ten, or how Nemesis in the persons of Stacy, Har- 
kins, Tygson, et al., were hot upon his trail, how- 
ever. 

Like an ostrich that hides its head in the sand 
and believes its body out of danger, so did Curtis 
North feel sure that change of name, a few thou- 
sand miles' separation from his Rawhide swindling 
location, the possession of much money, and meta- 
morphosis into an affluent financier rendered liim 
immune from any and all retribution. While not 
forgetting the fatal night in Rawhide that added 
about sixty thousand dollars to his ill-gotten gains, 
and sent liini east in a hurry, six years of prosperity 



344 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



and the garnering of a half-million more had made 
that episode seem a faint sliadow upon the horizon 
of his past. He was now rotund, smiling, buoyant, 
cynical, quite content with his own success as an aH-- 
round swindler, toadied to all who had nwre rtKvney 
than himself, was ai. irrant hypocrite, felt only con- 
tempt for all honest toilers, and inclinevl to adopt 
that shibboleth of arrogant wealth, " The pubiic be 
damned." 

And this was a concise and to-the-point resume 
of Curtis North and the Passaic Reclaiming and 
Development Company that night when Stacy 
Whipple, an avenging David, landed in New York 
ready to assault this modern and iniquitous 
Goliath. And the first pebble he picked up on 
arriving at the Holland House was a map of that 
swindling scheme recently left on one of its writing- 
room tables. He gave a long-drawn " humph- 
hum " of satisfaction as he glanced it over and read 
the alluring prospectus on its reverse side, then put 
it in his long pocketbook. 

" We are on deck at the nick of time, I guess," 
he said to himself then, "and to catch you flush 
with money and able to settle, you old villain. 
Hope Harkins will arrive on time." 

He next bought a copy of each evening paper, 
left them in his room, ate a good supper, went to the 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



345 



theatre and, as might be expected, while there 
scanned the crowd of faces to see if perchance this 
scheining swindler might be among them. On his 
return, he conned over that bunch of papers, found 
two in which the stock premium advertisement of 
Curtis and Company appeared, and happening to 
glance down the coliunn of stock market quotations 
discovered " Passaic Development — fourteen and 
one-quarter bid, fifteen Bsked," among the curb 
securities. 

Then he gave a prolonged whistle of astonish- 
ment! 

" Well, you are flying high," he exclaimed, " and 
no mistake ! Also right in the swim, you swelled- 
up toad I Fourteen and a quarter bid for one share 
of hot-air bluff, is it? I don't wonder Puck said, 
' What fools these mortals be ! ' " Then Stacy be- 
gan his castle building again and added, " Wonder 
how ' Pentecost Curtis, the well-known promoter, 
arrested for murder,' in staring capitals in all the 
papers, will look to you when you start west with 
Harkins? I must have a reporter on hand when 
the trick is turned, that's certain ! " 

And so hilarious was Stacy over his prospects 
and so anxious to consummate his plans and 
" scoop " this reprobate, that he found sleep an 
elusive matter that night. 



mF^n&m 



^^^^^^TH 



346 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



Next tnorning, and with two clays on his hands 
before Uncle Asa and Harkins were to arrive, he 
hied himself away to hunt up the location and look 
over this great development scheme. The informa- 
tion in the prospectus, and the fact that it was 
within three miles of Newark's outskirts made that 
easy, and here, first reconnoitering the dozen or so 
men at work ditching or road or wharf building to 
make sure that Curtis was not among them, Stacy 
advanced as if on a curiosity quest and made a gen- 
eral survey of what had been done. 

Some money had been spent here, also, in a pass- 
able roadway built out from the upland border a 
half-mile across the marsli, and in an out-jutting 
wharf and spile-protected levee to right and left of 
this. 

" You certainly are putting up a good bhiflf." he 
said to himself after a hasty look around in which 
he noted two small gangs of men lazily at work on 
both ends of his levee. Then glancing into one of 
tlie ditches alongside tlie graveled roadway out of 
which the tide was ebbing, he added, " Sell house- 
I'ls here! Why, the nerve of that man is monu- 
mental, colossal, and p.-;st understanding!" 

Tlien bctnok liinis^lf back to New York. 

That afternoon he. using an introductory letter 
from his own allorncy in Albion, called uiwn one 



THE C\STLF. BUILDERS 



347 



in New York and obtaiiiiil fuiilier iiifomiation 
upon the laws conaiiiing the case in han'l if, as he 
surmised, Harkins shoulil make an arrest; i l course 
wi(!"out the use of names. 

" There should be," the atlorney said, " a warrant 
issued agai I 'he periietrator nf tlie crime of mur- 
der in the State of Nevada, or Ix-tter still, an indict 
ment should be found against him by the grand 
jury. Of course, having left the State he has not 
been arrested and the warrant or indicuneiit still 
runs against him and if he is found at an> lime 
within the borders of the State of Neva<l^i he can 
be apprehended by a «'ieriff. Now the man in New 
York, who recognizes he fugitive ami anv other 
person, the shcriflf in your c:ise, who c i make an 
affidavit, first, th.at a crime of inurd. r has been 
committed by a ma of a certain name in the State 
of Nevada (this can h. the affidavit of the sheriflf 
or of any other competent witness); second, the 
affidavit of the man in New York that the fugitive 
and the criminal is tlie same identical person, who 
has committed a crime in Nevada and is recognized 
by I 'm and known by him in the State of New 
York. MVidavits lik. this arc then annexed to tli • 
warrant or indictment, as the case may he, and the 
Governor of Nevada upon this evidence issues a 
requisition to the Governor nf New York and sends 



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II-JIOCOPV MSOlUriON TEST CHA«T 

(ANSI and ISO TEST CHART No. 2) 



1.0 [fi^ m 

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^1^1^ 



_^ APPLIED IM/IGE Ini 

— — ^ 1653 East Mam Street 

S'.S Hothesler, Ne« Torfc U609 USA 

"-ass (716) *S2 - 0300 - Phone 

^^ (716) 288 - 59B9 - Fai 



348 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 




that requisition in the hands of a Nevada sheriff 
to the Governor of New York, who immediately 
orders extradition papers to issue. These extradi- 
tion papers are directed to any person in the State 
of New York competent to serve judicial processes, 
that is, a sheriff or pohce officer, and authorizes the 
arrest of the person named therein, the fugitive. 
Upon his arrest, it is the practice in the State of 
New York for the officer making the arrest to take 
the man in company with the Nevada sheriff on 
board the cars and convey him as far as the State 
Une, where he turns him over to the sheriff from 
Nevada, who carries him to his destination. 

" There is no way in which any bond can be given 
in a case of this kind. The only thing possible 
would be a writ of habeas corpus, into which you 
do not want to go. That would simply be a chance 
for him to be heard in New York before he was de- 
livered to the sheriff of Nevada." 

And so justice and the forthcoming doom of this 
despicable and heartless scoundrel were duly and le- 
gally prepared for by Stacy, who did not mean to 
leave any loopholes for escape, or get his own 
fingers caught in any trap-springing operation. 

A forewarning of it, or at least the probable fail- 
ure of the Oakdale scheme, came to Curtis North 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



349 



when Otero hastened back from Albion to acquaint 
him with Ike's disclosure. 

" I haf suspicion ze talk of zese two fellows » as 
made for me to hear," he asserted to his superior 
knave after relating it in their private office in low 
tone, so that the clerk and stenographer in the outer 
one could not hear. " One of them vas in ze hotel 
that day to find eef I vas there, a tall fellow vit 
big hands, und Miss Carmen says i' ees one who 
ees in that man Whipple's office. Und I haf sus- 
picion of somedings else I haf never told you," he 
added more mysteriously. " Dis tall fellow, his 
name ees Williams, und a man of zat name come to 
where I haf room in ze city here und asked for me 
und you, too, ze week we vas in Barre und said he 
vanted to hire some men, und you know my card I 
gif Mr. Whipple in Barre vas a bluff." 

Then the self-confident Curtis North began to 
stroke his beloved side-whiskers excitedly and 
stared sharply at Otero. " Why didn't you tell me 
about this man's asking for me?" he demanded 
anxiously after a pause. " How did you know but 
it was some sleuth?" 

" I did not think so much of it zen," returned 
Otero evasively, " und I forgot it since until now. 
Vat I do think ees some trick haf been blayed on 



350 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



us und ze swamp, ze tam swamp I bought, zey no 
want now. Miss Carmen says she know zey haf 
bought another in Oakdale." 

And then Curtis North fairly glared at the 
diminutive pal he had so trusted. " You've got 
skinned in this game, and by an old farmer, too," 
he declared in derision, " and I am ashamed of you, 
you — you little damn fool; why that — that 
farmer is a mark, and you let him uo you ! 

" And me out of ten thousand dollars, you drivel- 
ing idiot," he added more contemptuously and 
louder, as it all dawned on him. " Just threw it into 
that swamp hole like the stupid jackass you were." 
And so angry was he now, he jumped up and 
stamped around the small office! 

" This comes of getting befuddled and bedeviled 
by a scheming woman," he continued more scorn- 
fully and with rising wrath. " You got after that 
Carmen hag, she had a spite against this Whipple, 
as you admitted, and put up the job ! Played you 
for a fool and called the turn! Also ten thousand 
dollars out of me, you — you imbecile ass ! " Then, 
and cooling off a little, he sat down again. 

And now, shrewd villain that he was, it began to 
(lawn on him that some one's wits far keener than 
Asa Webster's, had been matched against his in this 
game of extortion. 



Wr 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



351 



" It's that Whipple fellow at the bottom of this, 
Leon," lie declared, nodding in mysterious manner, 
and in cooler tone now. " He suspected your game 
that day in Barre, I'll bet, and went back to Oakdale 
and put up the job out of devilish cussedncss ! I'll 
bet, too, he was the one who called at your house ! " 

And just then, and for the first time in many 
years, Curtis North felt a queer sensation of guilty 
fear. 

•' It can't be possible that old farmer described 
me to this fellow, Whipple, and he recognized me 
as the one who sold him the Rawhide stock," he 
muttered half to himself. " By Jove, I hope not ! " 

It was not long ere a worse fear assailed him. 



t < 






■I ' 

J. 



«: i 



"W^f 



CHAPTER XXIX 

ELL, how are you, Uncle Asa? " was 
Stacy's greeting the third morning 
after his arrival in New York, when 
that cheerful optimist emerged from a sleeping car. 

"Wal, I'm middlin'," he responded, grasping 
Stacy's hand, and with a " Here, leggo my bag," 
he added as he yanked it away from a young colored 
porter who had grabbed it. 

" That is, I'm out o' that sweat box alive arter 
bumpin' my head more'n forty times tryin' to git 
my clothes on in the box shelf, 'n' I didn't sleep a 
wink, either. 

" But I've had a heap o' fun," he continued, shak- 
ing with suppressed laughter and drawing Stacy 
one side from the crowding stream of arriving pas- 
sengers. " More fim'n a barrel of monkeys ! See 
that woman with the red nose ? " he added, indicat- 
ing a stout lady with meat-axe face and hair-mole 
on her chin, who was waddling by. "See this, 
too? " holding up a paper-wrapped box and choking 
another burst of laughter. 

352 



lift! 



.' r,rmn''fLim.i 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



353 



Then Stacy, curious to know the cause of Uncle 
Asa's hilarity, peeped through a rift in the brown- 
papered parcel he carried and saw three good-sized 
black snakes squirming in the wire box ! 

"What the devil did you fetch those for?" hi 
ejaculated, astonished. 

" Oh, fer the little weasel I'm goin' to sass," came 
the chuckling answer ; " 'n' say, talk 'bout a circus 
'n' hullabaloo, wal, I stirred both up in the car this 
mornin', I did fer sartin! Ye see, I brung four 
snakes 'long, jest ez a sorter reminder o' B'ar Hole 
swamp to the little Mexican cuss, 'n' shoved the old 
rat trap I got 'em in under the shelf whar I war 
put by the nig who had charge o' the car. Wal, 
'long in the night one on 'em got out, ye see, 'n' 
'bout daylight the fun begun! I wa'n't asleep, jist 
layin' thar 'most suffocated, 'n' I heeid the oarky 
come scufflin' down the aisle. I peeked out through 
the curtains 'n' saw him stoopin' to steal a pair o' 
shoes from under the bunk jist across from me, I 
cal'late, 'n' ez he pulled one out, one o' rny snakes 
slid out on't right over his hand ! 'N' talk 'bout a 
scart nigger! He war it, all right, fer iie gave one 
screech o' ' God A'mighty, de debbil,' 'n' turned a 
flip-flap right over back ; his head hit the floor with 
a thump 'n' when he riz, he riz a runnin'! All I 
could sec war a streak o' white jacket a yellin'. 



.•?S4 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



' Snake, snake in de keer ! ' I cal'late he'd turned 
white, too, jist from skeer. 

" The next minute that fat woman poked her 
head out, 'n' right under her nose war that snake, 
'n' the yell she let out would 'a' lifted shingles, 
sartin! 'Twa'n't a scconj 'fore she bust out 
through the curtains in her i^ightgown, 'n' jist dove 
down the aisle arter the nig a-yellin' ' Snakes, 
snakes,' fit to split! I don't think 'twas over a 
minute 'fore everybody in the bunks had piled out 
jist as they v/ar, 'n' into the next keer, I cal'late, 
scart silly! 

" 'N' then the conductor come in ! ' What's the 
row ! ' he said to me. a-peekin' out 'n' laughin'. 

Why, the nigg war took with jim-jams,' I 
said, ' jist ez he war stealin' a pair o' shoes, 'n' 
thought he saw a snake slip out o' one o' 'em I ' 
' I'll have him fired,' he said, ' to start sich a row,' 
'n' then he went out 'n' fetched the bunch back to 
git dressed. I went at it, too, s'posin' the fun was 
all over 'n' then jist ez it war quietin' down, the 
nig came back where he war, 'n' liftin' up a bunk, 
out come that snake agin ! " 

"Well, what happened then?" queried Stacy, 
now choknig back his laughter. " Was — was the 
fat woman back then ? " 

" Yes, but she didn't st^.y back more'n a second," 



ij.. 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



355 



chuckled Uncle Asa, as they started on. " She 
grabbed most o' her clother jumped right into a 
man witli one leg in his pants, 'n' the two on 'em 
jist rolled over in a bunch, he cussin' 'n' she 
screechin'l Oh, 'twar a circus, I tell ye, 'n' I'll 
laugh fer a month now. 

" I'd 'a' got killed I s'pose if they'd found out 
I brung the snakes," he added, glancing back as 
they emerged from the depot, " but you kin bet I 
kept whist. I got square with the nig, too," he 
continued, chuckling again. " Ye see, 'long in the 
night I a.\ed him to shove up the cover over my 
bunk — nobody in it, ye see — 'n' he tried to skin 
me out o' two plunks, the dern thief, he did I 

" ' Ah can't do it, sah,' he said, ' less you pays two 
dollars moah, sah, dat's de rule ob de company, sah.' 

" Guess he'll 'member last night a spell, how- 
somever," Uncle Asa added, chuckling again. 
And then Stacy steered this joke-loving humorist 
into a carriage and 'Started for the Holland House. 

" You'd better keep fast hold of your snakes," 
Stacy now cautioned him as they rode on, " or you'll 
start a bigger rumpus in the hotel than you did in 
the sleeping car. There will be a porter and bell 
boys to grab cerything you bring, and if they 
see your snakes — well, we may both get .nto a 
scrape. I believe there is a city ordinance against 



I 



356 



THE CASTLE BUILDEr 



% 



!i 






-L< 



carrying them. I'll take charge of them.' .' 1 he 
did, now re-wrapping the wire trap su that nu one 
CO Id discover its uncanny contents. 

Later, when Stacy had piloted the irrepressible 
Uncle Asa to their suite of rooms, he sent a bell 
boy out for a telescope case and put the rat trap and 
snakes in it. 

At breakfast, next in order, Uncle Asa's droll 
humor once more disclostd itself. 

" T cal'late these Frenchified names fer jist old- 
fashioned ham 'ii' eggs 'n' fried puddin' or sassige," 
he queried, glancing over the cafe menu, " is so they 
kin tuck on sich ungodly pricv-s, ain't it, Stacy? 
Lamb chops a la suthin' or other dollar-fifty, Je-ru- 
se-lem, but that is chargin' some! 'N' Extra Sir- 
loin Steak in blazer three-fifty, 'n' planked a la 
Roosevelt four dollars, wow wow! Squab en cas- 
serole two-seventy-five," he continued, re^ ig on, 
" 'n' potatoes a la Holland House one dollar, 'n' 
coflfee, qua -ter a cup! Say Mister Waiter," turnii^g 
to the waiting one, " how much is a glass o' water, 
jist i-t-in water, no a la in it? " 

" Eet is no charge for ze water," returned the 
waiter, grinning and filling Uncle Asa's glass, " no 
charge, sairt." 

And then Stacy came to the rescue. 



THE CASTLE BUII-DERS 



357 



" You are my guest, ITncle Asa," he sairl smiling . 
" let me )rdtr breakfast." And he did, a most 
satisfying one. But when Uncle Asa noticed only 
eighty cents returned in change from the ten-dollar 
bill Stacy tendered in paj mem (and thai left on the 
plate as a tip), he gasped again. 

" It's jist a-eatin' money to eat here," he ejacu- 
lated, " 'n' sorter sinful, too! Nice grub, o' course, 
best ever was, but sich prices is highway robbery ! " 
Then, with a glance around at the bediamonded 
ladies wearing stunning Merry Widow hats, some 
sipping cocktails, and waiters in full dress, he 
added, "These folks don't git their livin' ketchin' 
lobsters at fifteen cents a pound, 'n' sellin' potatoes 
at fifty cents a bushel, I cal'la'e, Stacy? " 

When the finger bowls and toothpicks on a silver 
tray were b-ought, he glanced up at the waiter quiz- 
zically. " Say, Mister Slick," he said with a 
twinkle in his eyes, "yew'd best tell the boss he's 
made a mistake in his price list 'n' left off the tooth- 
picks! 'Cordin' to the rest, they'd sartinly ought 
to be fifty cents, anyhow! " 

He added the crowning touch of absurdity, how- 
ever, when Stacy now coolly lit a cigar. " Say, 
Stacj. ' he then whispered across the table, " t'.iey've 
ben watchin' nie curis like 'round here I've noticed. 



m 



358 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



'n' griiinin', but s'pDsr I pulled out my old corn- 
cob 'n' lit up now? Wouldn't that joggle 'em 
some? 

" 'N' how'd it work," he added after a pause and 
chuckling, " ef I'd brought in my box o' snakes 
'n' jist let \m loose here? I'd git sent to jail, I 
s'pose, but " — snorting with suppressed laughter — 
" it'ud be wuth it to see the crowd vamoose, I 
swow! They'd start livelicr'n the nig did when 
the snake come out o' the shoe, 'n' he went some ! " 

And unable to control himself longer, Uncle Asa 
exploded in laughter. 

He followed Stacy out of the breakfast room, 
still chuckling, and not until their own suite was 
reached, did lie speak again. 

" I s'pose I am out o' place here, 'n' a mark to be 
laughed at," he then said, penitently, " 'n' mebbe 
ye're 'shamed o' me, i.Ir. vV'hipple, but — wal, them 
wimmcn, 'n' them waiters like dudes, 'n' thetn prices 
set me agoin'! 'N' how folks kin go in thar 'n' 
stand fer't, I can't see ! Why, it jist looks like they 
wanted to be skinned, it do! And say," he added, 
glancing around the luxuriously furnished room 
they were in, " What do they charge for lodgin' 
here, Stacy ? " 

" Why, these two rooms are each eight dollars 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



359 



a clay," lau);iicd Stacy, " but you nceun'i mind. 
You are my guest, you ki w." 

" Gee whittakcr crackee," exclaimed Uncle Asa, 
"but this is wuss'n that breakfast, Stacy I 'N' 
'taiii't right to bur- money this way, either, with 
folks in this world a-slarvin', too! 'Tain't right, I 
say! Let's git out 'n' find some cheaper spot. I 
thouglit ^ knew sutliin' 'bout city life," he added 
musing!;, after a pause, " but I don't know the be- 
ginnin', even! 'N' wliar do folks here git their 
money, I'd like to know? Do tlie/ print it them- 
selves? " 

" Some do," returr Stacy laconically, " or what 
amounts to the sam ihing. work some swindling 
game on the unwary, as Curtis North has been 
'oing." 

" 'N' this is the way my four tli and went I'd 
scraped 'n' saved fer Hazel," asseucd Uncle Asa, 
seeing a light. " Jist blowed by tliat whiskered 
hypocrite who said he come to Oakdale to do the 
Lord's work, 'n' prayed in meetin', cz he did ! 'N' 
I took Iiim fisliin', too," he added musingly, " 'n' 
picked out the best holes, 'n' sent him ahead to fish 
'cm 'n' mai ; Hazel make us a shortcake, likewise! 
Also a biled-down drivilin' idjit o' myself same 
time, I did ! " 






m 



! 



I 



360 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



And just then, as if to accentuate Uncle Asa's 
humiliation and recall their errand here, a bell- 
boy's knock came, and a telegram, reading, 
" Stopped oflf at Albany to get requisition. Shall 
arrive at two-thirty, Harkins," was handed to Stacy. 

" We have four hours to wait. Uncle Asa," Stacy 
now asserted, consulting his watch and pursing his 
lips while he gave matters a mental round-up. 
" Harkins will need an assistant officer to make the 
arrest, I'd better leave you here in safe-keeping, 
and go to see about it, or have one ready on caU. 
Harkins must decide how we shall proceed." 

And just now the stern seriousness and vital 
importance of the coming climax to his plans oblit- 
erated all else in Stacy's mind. 

And for ample reasons, also. 

For over two months now, he had been conspiring 
to bring this about, and not only mete out justice 
to two despicable scoundrels, but rescue Hazel's 
heritage and Bear Hole Swamp as part of the com- 
phcation. The latter purpose was the more im- 
portant one to Stacy, and just how it would work 
out was a question. He had the necessary cards 
to play this restitution game. Justice, that blind 
goddess, in the person of Harkins, was also now 
speeding citywards at about one mile a minute as 
Stazy knew, but no move or decision how to move 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



361 



must be made until the keen-witted and legally well- 
informed Rawhide marshal arrived. 

" I'd better get everything ready," Stacy next 
determined, voicing this to his companion, " while 
you remain here in seclusion and read the papers." 
As always with him, to decide meant to act at 
once, and with a " You stay here ; bye-bye. Uncle 
Asa," he left the room and in five minutes up came 
a boy with all the morning papers. He was gone 
three hours, returned, took Uncle Asa down to 
lunch, and at just three-ten there came a knock on 
their door, and Harkins and the yellow-haired 
giant, Tygson, were ushered in. 

Introductions came next, and then Stacy disclosed 
his plans. 

" I've got my write-up all ready," he said, now 
producing it. " Also Uncle Asa here as a witness 
to convince Curtis North that we know him. He 
is now booming this other swindling scheme I wrote 
you about, which I have included in his obituary, 
as you can see ; and now what is your plan, Jim ? " 
" Well," returned that officer, smiling as he 
glanced over that six-page document, " it seems 
probable our friend will weaken at sight of his biog. 
with photographs attached and sign any old thing 
to get possession of it and rid of you. If he won't, 
then it's me next, and arrest for murder. I must 



362 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 




do that, anyway, after obtaining the legal papers I 
have, that's positive. My theory and measure of 
the man," he added after a pause, " is, he is an 
arrant coward, a poltroon at heart. He will con- 
coct fake schemes, tell plausible lies, steal cards in 
a poker game, even stab a man in the back, if need 
be, or club a drunken miner, as he did, but when 
we walk in on him and demand what we shall, he 
will squash right out, go into his boots like a wet 
rag. I wouldn't be surprised if he went onto his 
knees and bellowed like a calf for mercy when I 
arrest him, as I must. Have you the deed you want 
signed with you ? " 

" Sure," responded Stacy, now drawing it forth ; 
" all filled out properly and ready for signature to 
make it legal." Then he passed it to Harkins. 

" Know ye all men to whom these presents shall 
come, greeting: that I, Leon Otero, for one dollar 
and other considerations to me in hand paid, do 
hereby deed, grant, assign and transfer to Miss 
Hazel Webster, her heirs and assigns, all right, title 
and claim " — read Harkins after glancing the deed 
over, then stopped abruptly and looked at Stacy, 
then at Uncle Asa. 

"Your daughter, Mr. Webster, I infer?" he 
queried, smiling. 

" 'Tis, sartin," Uncle Asa admitted, flushing and 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



363 



swallowing a lump, " but — but " — with grateful 
glance at Stacy — " it kinder took me by s'prise. 
Yew'd best change it, Mr. Whipple," he added, 
choking again, and extending his hand to Stacy. 
" 'Tain't — 'tain't right to give it to her arter all 
ye've done fer me. Make it in yer own name." 

" Too late," asserted Stacy briskly, with a light 
laugh ; " besides I want the fun of buying it back 
from Hazel, as I must later — if we get this deed 
signed at all!" 

" if we do," rejoined Harkins, smiling again at 
Stacy, " you can no doubt buy it of her for one 
dollar and other considerations (I hope), or maybe 
there won't be any need of it, anyhow ? " 

And then all four of these men smiled broadly at 
this hint of a happy consummation. 

" The question now," declared Stacy more seri- 
ously, " is whether we go to the lair of ' his 
whiskers' this afternoon, or wait till to-morrow? 
I presume you will have to go back as soon as you 
make the arrest, Jim? " 

" To save expense and legal complications, yes," 
returned Harkins. " It's a high-handed act, how- 
ever, to yank even such a scoundrel out of his busi- 
ness without time to make some assignment of it. 
And he can't obtain bonds after my arrest for 
murder! Then I've been on a Pullman five days. 



Ul 



^isri^r^'nsss^ 



364 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



and you know what that means? I need a bath 
and one night's sleep, anyhow! 

" We'd best keep shady or if we go out, go sepa- 
rately," he added after a moment's thought. " If 
our bird was to spy us together he'd fly the coop in 
two hours ! " 

And he would have flown in less time, had he had 
even a hint of who were now in the city and what 
their mission was. 

Matters were adjusted in a secretive manner, 
however, for Stacy took Uncle Asa to one theater 
that evening, Harkins went to another, while the 
Swede, by the latter's advice, remained in seclusion. 
The three chief actors in the coming drama met 
again late that evening, discussed and rehearsed 
their separate parts, and armed and equipped as the 
law directs, with another officer to assist Harkins, 
started at ten the next morning for the Mills Build- 
ing and lair of Curtis North. 

To add the spice of fun he hoped to obtain, Uncle 
Asa also carried his box of snakes. 



1 :n 



' tij 



CHAPTER XXX 

WHILE coming events may or may not cast 
their shadows before, it is an indisput- 
able fact that crime forecasts its own 
retribution. Commit one felonious act, and it is 
as if the whole world were snow-covered and tracks 
left behind each criminal! The greater the crime 
against God or man, the deeper seem those fatal 
footprints, as if even the blind might pursue! 
With conscience once stung by the venom of crime, 
its persistent shadow pursues even the most har- 
dened sinner. It looks out from dark alleys, peers 
through the cracks of doors, watches with sinister 
eye from around corners, taps on the wainscot in 
the stilly night, pulses through the air in uncanny 
whispers, and the ominous patter of its avenging 
steps seems ever in pursuit. A winged Nemesis — 
black, baleful, vengeful, merciless — that can and 
will pursue untiringly, above, below, and all about ; 
and ever in wait to mete out inflexible justice ! 

For six years now, or since that fatal night when 
he had dealt a merciless blow to a drunken miner, 
then cut loose his belt of gold while yet dying, 
3ti5 



(•, 



366 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



w " 



Curtis North had never been quite free from this 
insidious, carking fear. Not pity for the besotted 
man he had slain, only a vague, never absent fear, 
that sooner or later some retribution might overtake 
him. He was vain, pompous, arrogant, even d< 
fiant with his attained wealth, scornful of all laws, 
juries, or justice; believed himself immune to any 
danger from them, selfish to a degree that was dis- 
gusting, and yet beneath all thii armor of self- 
complacency and bumptious conceit, the tiny worm 
of retributive fear gnawed at his vitals. 

And now, since Otero had brought news of his 
discomfiture, sure that Stacy Whipple was its cause, 
and most likely had also conferred with the Oak- 
dale farmer, once swindled by him, and suspected 
his identity as well, Curtis North began to grow 
uneasy. So certain did he become after three days 
of this insidious fear hat an avenger was on his 
trail, that he now thought it best as a matter of 
precaution to begin the closing up of his business 
ventures, secure all the I'loney he couid lay his 
hands upon, and be ready lo leave for some foreign 
country on an hour's notice, if advisable. To this 
end, and without notifying Otero of his plans oi 
fears, he witlidrew large sums in bills of big denom- 
ination from the two banks where he kept deposits, 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



367 



secured cashiers' checks for most of both balances 
left, and then obtained the sailing dates of all out- 
going steamers for the next two weeks, and the 
destination of each. 

And then so shrewd was this old fox that he — 
two hours after Stacy met Uncle Asa with his box 
of snakes — began the examination of all the prin- 
cipal hotel registers to see if perchance this man, 
Whipple, had arrived at any of them. And so close 
a call was it, or by the fortuitous straw of chance, 
that he was halted at the Waldorf by meeting a rich 
Cuban planter — to whom he had been trying to sell 
a block of his Passaic bonds — and postponed call- 
ing at the Holland House until next day ! 

To land this big plum and " easy mark " as Curtis 
North thought him now, and at once, and so secure 
about ten thousand dollars more, seemed more im- 
perative than a further pursuit of hotel registers 
that day. To this pleasant and remunerative task 
he now applied himself diligently, wined and dinec 
his victim that evening, took him to a theater, and 
after so much preliminary work, made a positive 
date to meet him at his office at ten-thirty, sharp, 
the next day. 

And at nine-forty-five exactly of that same day, 
Stacy, Uncle Asa, Harkins, Tygson, and the assist- 



KXffJT^Si::^ '^mm.r 



368 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



I 11' 



ant officer entered the ^fills Building, stepped into 
an express elevator and were shot up to Floor 
Twenty -two in a jiffy! 

" You stay outside," Harkins said to his assistant 
as they advanced l. room 210, " and when I whistle, 
you cn.ne in quick." 

Then Stacy — a trifle nervous, perhaps — opened 
the door and led the way into the lair of Curtis 
North. 

As he half expected, he now found himself in an 
outer office witli bookkeecsr and stenographer only, 
at work. 

" We wish to s-.e Mr. Curtis," he said to the 
former, who glanced curiously at the party. 

" Name, please ? " came the response in civil tone. 

" You can say we called to see about investing in 
some bonds," replied Stacy, nonchalantly. 

In a moment more a door was opened from 
within the inner office and a " This way, please," 
gave the needed permission. 

And just then Stacy's heart gave a sudden leap 
of keen anxiety and suspense. 

The crucial moment had come. 

He had wondered many times how this arch- 
swindler would meet Harkins and himself — 
whether defiantly, cravenly, or with virtuous indig- 
nation. He felt almost sure, however, from his 



.JL 



-'."• S it ...^^ 



", .T-jOB 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



369 



measure cf the man, that he would take his medi- 
cine with the sung-froid and bravado of a polished 
scoundrel and dead-game sport combined, and with- 
out a protest. 

And Stacy was right, for as the party filed in, 
Stacy leading, Curtis looked up from his desk, gave 
one quick glance at the four faces, the flush van- 
ished from his own, and he faced around and stared 
at his enemies defiantly. 

"Good morning, Mr. North," -.vas Stacy's off- 
hand greeting; "this is my friend Mr. Harkins 
from Rawhide, Mr. Tygson also, and Mr. Asa Web- 
ster from Oakdale," he added, thus introducing 
them. " I met you in Barre last summer." 

For one instant the keen eyes of the trapped 
swindler turned furtively from one to another of 
the four intruders, a quick biting of lips came next, 
he glanced around to where Otero sat, then back to 
the waiting, watching men. 

" Well, gentlemen," he said almost defiantly, yet 
with a tremor in his tone, " what can I do for 
you ? " 

"Oh, not much," returned Stacy nonchalantly 
again and drawing his deed from his inside coat 
pocket ; " just your friend Otero's signature on this 
paper and yours as witness. 

" For one dollar and other considerations," he 



:"1rtC»^ ■"".' ifc^rV- 



370 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



added, producing the bill and handing both to the 
watching man. 

He took it, let the bill dtop to the floor, opened 
and glanced over the deed, and wheeled around to 
Otero. 

" Here, Leon, sign this," he then directed, affixed 
his own sig'.iattire— Pentecost Curtis — in trem- 
bling hand, and passed the document back to Stacy. 

" Anything else you want, sir?" he next queried 
with more bravado. 

" My friend, Tygson, has a loan he wants paid 
back," responded Stacy incisively ; " how much is 
it, Mr. Tygson? " 

" I vants tirty tousand dollar, und in money," 
almost snarled the Swede. " Und I vants it now ! " 

" The loan's been running 'bout six years you 
see, Mr. North," explained Harkins, speaking for 
the first time, " and he's added interest." 

" But this is — is robbery," gasped the trapped 
man, " and I — I — " catching at a straw, " haven't 
so much here." 

" You can send your pal to the bank after it," 
rejoined Harkins resolutely now. " I've an officer 
waiting outside to keep him company." 

No protest came to this, however, and hesitating 
a moment only, Curtis North turned, swimg a safe 
door open, unlocked an inner till, fumbled over a 




TlIK KKKN KVKS OF TIIK TUAI'PKD MWINDI.KIt TrilXKI) FLK- 

TIVKI.V FHOM ONK TO ANoTIIKR OF TIIK F4MB 

INTItritKFtK.— P»i;/r .itU). 



I 



• '^.or^ 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 371 

plethoric pocketbook, then handed a small sheaf of 
bilii of large denomination to Tygson. 

"Anything else?" he next queried witli admi- 
rable sang-froid and rcasm combined ; " a more 
loans you gentlemen want paid back? " 

And then Harkins, who despite his official anxiety 
to arrest this cool villain was compelled to admire 
his nerve and audacity, spoke again. 

" You take your medicine like an old sport, Mr. 
Curtis North, alias Pentecost Curtis," he said 
sternly. " But I must now and in the name of the 
law and State of Nevada, arres'. you for the murder 
of one Yonn Johnson 1 Also you, Mr. Leon Otero," 
he continued, turning to him, then drew forth his 
warrants. 

"Shall I read these writs to yo>i?" he queried. 

And then the sublime stit'-posses;' m and nerve 
of this swindler gave way and he collapsed. 

" My God ! " he stammered, " th — this is all 
wrong! I — I never killed that man! He fell and 
broke his own skull I I — I — you can't prove it," 
then choked and shook with abject fear. 

And then to end this painful scene, Harkins blew 
a shrill, short blast on a small whistle, his assistant 
entered speedily, and him he next addressed. 

•' These men are my prisoners," he said ; " we will 
be decent to them and wait till they send for and 



372 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



11 . 



appoint some trustee of their business. We will 
then start west with them this afternoon." 

" You understand, Mr. North," he added more 
sternly now and addressing him, " you can have 
one hour to fix up your business matters in this 
office and then we start, at one o'clock I think." 

" What shall I do now, Brother Harkins," Stacy 
now asked; " anything for you? " 

" There is my satchel to get and my hotel bill to 
be paid, Mr. Whipple," responded Harkins briskly ; 
" also have a carriage here at twelve, sharp." And 
glad to escape so unpleasant a situation, Stacy and 
Uncle Asa left the office while Tygson remained. 

He, poor fellow, scared half out of his wits, as 
he had been all along and with a small fortune now 
thrust inside his shirt, was sure to stick to his 
savior, Harkins, until the security of his own haunts 
was reached. Neither did Uncle Asa utter one of 
his intended sarcasms, for the sight of even this 
swindler who had robbed him now cringing in 
abject cowardice,- and white as his whiskers, nul- 
lified that intention entirely. 

" I'm kinder sorry fer the critter, arter all," he 
said to Stacy, when out of the office and still holding 
fast to his box of snakes. " But, by gosh, wa'n't 
he scart ! I cal'lated he'd make the weasel sign the 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 373 

deed, figgerin' that war all ye wanted, but gin up 
thirty thousand dollars 'thout a whimper ! Jerusha, 
but that was bein' skeered some! 'N' when Mr.' 
Harkins peeped, 1 could hear his teeth rattle! I 
s'pose he'll hev to swing, won't he?" he added 
after a pause. " But — wal. I hope they'll jug him 
fer life 'stead o' that. His wiltin' so kinder teched 
me." 

" He gave up much easier than I expected," re- 
joined Stacy, "and my write-up was all wasted. 
Harkins may use it, however, in court." 

But this bumptious knave and arrant coward 
combined, as might be expected, tried the only hope 
he had now for escape, and within ten minutes after 
being left alone with the officers. 

"I am not guilty of the murder charged, Mr. 
Harkins," he said, recovering his bravado some- 
what, "and you can't prove I am. We were at 
that woman's cabin, my friend, Otero, and I, I ad- 
mit, but all I know about the death of that miner 
was his falling from the loft above. He was up 
there, and drunk. We left town that night so as 
not to be mixed up in a scandal. 

"This arrest is an outrage, and will ruin my 
business," he added, turning to his safe again and 
taking out a fat pocketbook, " but you must do your 




UK'- i 



374 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



duty. And now " — beginning to count out bills — 
" I'll give each of you fifty thousand apiece to for- 
get you found me. Is it a go ? " 

For one long moment Harkins' eyes, hard and 
scornful, were fixed on those of his prisoner, then 
he answered : 

" You lie quite fluently, Curtis North," he said 
with incisive sneer. " You cringe like the mean 
coward you are. But a million of your stolen dol- 
lars won't tempt me to deprive the boys in Rawhide 
of what they are anticipating on your arrival ! " 

And then Curtis North collapsed again, as Har- 
kins meant he should. 

At just twelve, Stacy once more walked into the 
office of Curtis and Company to find Harkins smok- 
ing grimly and watching his two prisoners, while 
the leading one was instructing another broker how 
to continue and look after his business. 

" Come, gentlemen, time's up, put these on," 
Harkins next commanded in brusque tone, produc- 
ing a pair of handcufi^s, and then at this final 
humiliation the last vestige of Curtis North's 
bravado vanished. 

" There is no need of this indignity," he moaned, 
" and it's an outrage ! I shall go along without 
trouble." 

" I intend you will go along, anyhow," asserted 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 375 

Harkins, curtly. " Come, right face ! " And awed 
by this imperious marshal, the two cringing men 
submitted, and a quite suggestive procession of 
seven men entered the next downward-bound 
elevator. A crowd flocked about the Mills Building 
entrance awaiting them, for the news of this arrest 
had spread like wildfire, and shouts of " Here they 
come ! " " How much am I bid for P. R. D. stock ? " 
with rapid offers down in its price, greeted their ap- 
pearance. Some were facetious bids, of course, 
most, real enough, for a good deal of this now 
worthless stock had been foisted upon " the street," 
and this was a last " devil-take-the-hindermost " 
scramble to get rid of it. The bidding ceased when 
one wag shouted, " A thousand P. R. D. for one 
cent a share," and another, " Send me your picture 
before they shave your whiskers," and thus insulted 
and jeered at by this band of sc ^■:rs who respect 
nothing under the sun, the two trembling prisoners 
were pushed and crowded into the waiting carriage. 
" Here's my write-up of your two birHs, Jim," 
Stacy said to him, now about to enter this convey- 
ance. " Also the fob and picture you may need. 
If I am wanted at the trial I'll come on, good-bye." 
And so ended the career of these two arch-con- 
spirators in Wall Street — forgotten inside of a 
week. They left in state, however, for Curtis 



vj" 



376 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



1:1 



North, forewarned as he had been by his own in- 
tuitions, carried with him over a quarter-million dol- 
lars in large bills and certified checks. He had also 
telephoned to engage an unscrupulous lawyr to go 
on to Rawhide with him and lead the legal fight he 
meant to make to save his neck. What happened 
there later, on his arrival, how " the b'ys," 
led by McCue, met him and received him, " in 
due and ancient " mining-camp manner, and its out- 
come, must be told later. 

For the present, however, Stacy's plans and rastle 
building, the city in his mind, his interest in Hazel 
and its up-hill course, are of more pertinent in- 
terest. It must be said, however, that this Colonel 
Sellers sort of fellow with his precious deed and 
key to unlock all his plans and harness the giant that 
was to build his city, now felt in a mood for joyous 
shouting. And Uncle Asa more so. 

" What'll I do with my snakes?" that cheerful 
humorist queried of Stacy when they arrived at 
the depot to take the night train out of the city. 
" I didn't jist feel like givin' 'em to the weasel, 
he 'peared to hev 'bout troubles 'nuff. But some- 
body here ought to git 'em, I cal'late ? " 

Then Stacy glanced across the street to a bril- 
liantly-lighted saloon, and an inspiration came. 

" Go over to that gin palace," he responded, in- 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 377 

dicating it, " and tell the head barkeeper that Curtis 
and Company, of Wall Street, sent the bag. Then 
skip out quick." And Uncle Asa did so. 

He could only guess what the high-salaried 
artist in liquids said when he examined his present, 
but he laughed to himself for two hours about it, 
and Stacy kept him company. 




i'^' 



I'^X i 



CHAPTER XXXI 

STACY was still in a hilarious mood the next 
morning when, after parting from Uncle Asa 
at the station, he reached his own office and 
found Colby, as usual, busy at his desk. 

His first utterance upon entering was a shout of 
" Rah, rah, whoop, hip, hurrah, Bert ! I've won 
out, hands down, and got the deed ! " 

" And a ' bun,' also, I should judge," returned 
Colby, facing around with a sarcastic grin. " Let's 
see your deed." And Stacy produced it. 

" To Miss Hazel Webster, her heirs and assigns, 
to have and to hold, etc., etc.," Colby added now, 
reading from the document, then paused and re- 
garded his partner with a broad grin. 

" Little previous, wasn't it ? " he drawled. " Or 
is this the winning maid's marriage settlement? If 
so, where do we come in on the power site ? " 

" Oh, I shall have it deeded back, of course," 
returned Stacy, briskly; "that's all right! No 
trouble about that ! " 

" In the family, eh ? " queried Colby again with 
37S 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS ^79 

quizzical sinile. "And when does the wedding 
come off? 

" But what's vhe use of questioning a man in 
love?" he continued ironically, without waiting an 
answer. " They can't even see a joke when it's lit 
up. Going to start for Oakdale this noon, are you ? 
Want another check for five hundred, eh? Go 
ahead and have your pipe dream, my dear boy! 
We don't need business, and Barre can wait. 
When you get sane again, we will go ahead on 
the contract." 

" I shall start for Oakdale to-morrow," returned 
Stacy seriously, for he was used to his partner's 
badinage, " and I want the two surveyors to go 
with me. I think, also, you'd better engage about 
fifty men, ready to come on when I say and begin 
work on the dam foundation. I presume I can get 
woodchoppers in Oakdale or Barre as soon as the 
swamp freezes up so they can work. My plan 
is to go ahead on the dam as fast as possible, cut 
and haul all available timber this winter, have a 
portable sawmill set up, and before green grass 
comes again I will have the foundation for the 
power house all laid. I think we'd better use wood 
for it, it's too far to haul brick from the railroad." 
And so the business needs of his plans now super- 






m-i 






380 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



seded all else in his mind — except Hazel, and 
she only to be considered as a side issue when even- 
ing came. To win her he meant, and he believed 
that he could do so ; to go ahead now on his air cas- 
tle and build his new city came first, however; and 
all the conspiring plans, land purchases, factory sites, 
the laying out of streets, the enlargement of a pos- 
sible harbor, must needs be attended to at the same 
time. Pride, also, now came in as an incentive. 
He had suggested what he meant to do in Oakdale, 
knew that hamlet was all agog over his proposi- 
tion, and that every man, woman, and child was 
soon to be discussing it and himself. And by 
nature a leader among men, he now meant to suc- 
ceed and win public approval ; also Hazel's. 

He spent almost that entire day in discussing 
plans with Colby, made suitable provision for capital 
to be used in land purchase, had partnership papers 
drawn for Sam Gates and Ur.cle Asa to sign with 
himself, packed two trunks full of fall and winter 
clothing, for, as he assured his aunt at parting, 
he was to make his home in Oakdale for the next 
year, and then, with all plans perfected, he and the 
two surveyors left Albion at noon the next day. 

He was quite happy, too, more so than ever be- 
fore in his life, for now he was in a fair way 
to realize one of his air-castle dre.- , to start an 



■rr t 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 381 

embryo city where Nature had made possible a 
thriving one, with all the charm of wooded hills 
enclosing it, and the near-by ocean to add natural 
beauty and romance. 

The money side of this dream was also a factor, 
though less so with him than success, and the satis- 
factory culmination of his plans. He meant to at- 
tain both, however. 

There was something else, also, that came as a 
premonition, when he, just at sunset, once more 
••ounded the hillside where he could look down into 
the valley at the apex of which lay Oakdale, and 
that — that here among these simple, frugal, honest 
people was likely to be his future home. 

" For a time at least," he thought, glancing across 
to a scarlet blaze of foliage amidst which he knew 
stood the home of Hazel, then beyond to the border- 
ing ocean. "It may be rather quiet here when 
winter comes, or until the trout brooks are un- 
locked, and the time comes to go shoring with Uncle 
Asa," he continued in thought, " still she will keep 
me from being very lonesome, I guess." 
Who " she " was, can easily be inferred. 
Sam, as might be expected, received him with 
enthusiasm. 

" Uncle Asa said you might fetch in to-night," 
that Boniface asserted, while shaking Stacy's hand 



I 



II 



382 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



cordially, " 'n' I've got things vvaitin' to gin ye a 
good Slipper. I'll show ye all up to rooms," he 
added, seizing Stacy's suit-case and leading the 
way, " 'n' arter supper we kin talk over matters. I 
s'pose ye' re goin' to stay here now quite a spell?" 

That Sam had " got things waitin' " was evinced 
in the dining-room, for the heretofore untidy 
Norah was attractive in clean white pinafore apron 
and cap, an immaculate table cloth and fa.;-folacd 
napkins added attraction to the table, upon which 
was a vase of flowers, all adding zest to the broiled 
chicken and cold boiled lobster now served. 

" I s'pose we'd best git arter this land bizness 
soon ez possible," Sam assured Stacy in an aside 
immediately after he emerged from the dining- 
room. " It's kinder whispered 'round here what 
yewr plans are bout the B'ar Hole site, 'n' — wal, 
you understand." 

" I do," smiled Stacy, unconscious that iiis pact 
with Squire Phinney had been betrayed and the 
prospective deeding of that property to Hazel was 
known to all Oakdale. " VVe will get busy to-mor- 
row, Sara, and begin buying land where it's ad- 
visable, or obtaining options on it." Then he 
donned his fall overcoat, lit a cigar, and started 
for Uncle Asa's at once. 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



383 



" He's tendin' right out on Hazel," growled Sam 
to himself, going out to bring wood for the office 
fire, " 'n' bizness kin wait. That's alius the way 
with a feller stuck on a gal. VVal, it's a cinch fer 
her, 'n' I'm glad on't." 

Then he returned, added fuel to the (ire, drew 
chairs up for the two surveyors, proffered them 
s'mic " two-for-five " cigars, and proceeded in his 
adroit way to obtain all they could disclose of their 
mission. 

In the meantime, and in spite of the pique re- 
sulting from his last meeting with Hazel, Stacy was 
striding on towards her home with anticipations of 
a pleasant evening. And soon hastening up the 
now leaf-carpeted lane, he once more heard her 
piano and voice now joined, and througli the cur- 
tained window saw her seated at it, and near by in 
rapt attention, Mr. Arthur Penrose I 

For one instant Stacy felt like gnashing his teeth 
and swearing, the next a glum of sulkiness (his one 
most objectionable foible) took possession of him. 

" She knew, or must have known I was com- 
ing to-night," he muttered to himself. " for I told 
Uncle Asa I was, and now has that cigarette puppy 
for a caller! Well, so be it. Miss Ha.^el Iceberg! 
I'll stay away until you invite me to call." 




384 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 






And so wratlifiil was he at what he felt to be 
ill usage, that he came near wheeling about and re- 
turning to the hotel. 

A second and better impulse came the next mo- 
ment, and that was to ignore Hazel and her visitor, 
go on to the kitchen and make a business call on 
Uncle Asa. A knock on the door of that brought 
the ancient spinster, Aur.: Sally, and he found Uncle 
Asa enjoying his corncob pipe beside the open fire. 
"Wal, I'm glad to see ye, right glad, Mr. 
Whipple," was Uncle Asa's greeting, as he drew 
an armchair up for Stacy, while Aunt Sally dis- 
creetly withdrew. "I cal'lated you'd come to- 
night. Hazel hez a caller, but you 'n' I kin visit 
jist the same. He won't stay long, mebbe." 

" I got here to-night, and Citic i iwn righl after 
supper mainly to have a business talk with you," 
rejoined Stacy, " so it's just as well. Business first 
with us, Uncle Asa. And now," he continued after 
lighting a cigar, " let's get at it. In the first place, 
and rather thoughtlessly on my part, before we 
went to New York, I had a deed ready for this 
Otero to sign and, as you saw, made out in your 
daughter's name. What I should have done was to 
have it in yours, but I was rather excited that 
morning and used hers, thinking it might be ad- 
visable for several reasons. Now I have the deed. 



THl" CASILE UUILDERS 



3«5 



we or my firm must own that property, and what 
you and I must adjust is a fair price for us to 
pay you for it, then have Hazel deed it over to 
us, and we pay her tlie price, or you take it as 
you think best. It may be wiser," he added after 
a pause, " for the deed to be from her to you, 
then you to us to save comment here. I made 
Squire Phinney swear to secrecy in this matter, 
however, and I presume he has kept his word." 

And just then Uncle Asa, so honest was he, came 
near blurting out the fact that this pecuhar trans- 
action was already known to all the village. 

"Wal, mebbe it's best to hev the deed to me 
fust, 'n' made back to your firm," he responded 
after a pause. " It'll sorter look better, 'n' mebbe 
t'other way might make talk. 

" Ez for the price " — sniiiing now — " fhar won't 
be no price on it. "ifou got me double what 'twas 
wuth out o' that swindler, 'n' the swamp's yewrn 
anyhow, now." 

" But I can't accept it that way, and won't," re- 
turned Stacy firmly. " What I did in the matter 
was for two reasons: to get you your money out 
of the mine swindle, and pay Curtis North for try- 
ing to rob us, as he and Otero planned. The site 
is worth a fair price to us, and I shall insist on pay- 
ing you for it." 



f 



386 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 




;i£ lit 



" 'N' ye can't, V I won't take a dern cent," re- 
sponded Uncle Asa as firmly, and smiling, " so thar 
ye be." 

For a long five minutes Stacy mused upon this 
unique situation fully conscious that Uncle Asa 
meant what he said. Also that he himself was 
equally firm in not being willing to accept this 
valuable piece of property without due payment. 

" I feel just as I said, Uncle Asa," he asserted at 
last, " and so will my partner. We must have that 
site, and we won't accept it as a gift from you, so 
what's to be done ? " 

" Derned if I know," rejoined Uncle Asa chuck- 
ling. " I'm jist ez an.\ious ez yew be to hev ye go 
ahead 'n' build yer dam; but I won't do a mean 
thing, 'n' takin' pay fer what I've got double its 
wuth fer a'ready 'ud make me feel I wus ! " 
" But we must fix it somehow, you and I." 
" Yes, we must, I'll 'low, 'n' now yew crack the 
nut, ye know my feelin's ! " 

For another long moment Stacy gave thought to 
this unusual and complex situation. He also felt 
that he personally would like Hazel to have five 
thousand dollars more — what he considered fair 
valuation for this swamp — to add to her bank ac- 
count. 

" I see but one way out of it," he declared finally, 



-t^sm^:^ 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



387 



" or rnt!- '; two ways. First, that we go to Albion 
and .vill pick tl / :e business men who don't know 
us, !•.-,;■ the situ tion and our positions, and abide 
by th- Jp'-';ior, ; or I will give you five thousand 
dollars to deposit in a Barre bank in Hazel's name, 
and if within one year she is not my promised wife 
you are to then give her the bank book. In the 
meantime, you must pronu'se me on your honor, not 
to betray this agreement to her. On these condi- 
tions I'll accept the deed and go ahead with my 
plans." 

" Wal, that way out on't is sorter like a jug — 
handle all on one side," chuckled Uncle Asa ; " she 
gits the money anyhow, fur's I kin see ? " 

" And I get her or lose the money," returned 
Stacy promptly. " So it's a fair bargain, or up to 
me to win her, isn't it? Come, Uncle Asa, let's 
call it a go. I want her if I can get her, even for 
a thousand times that sum ! " 

" Wal, I'll call it a go," responded Uncle Asa 
smiling and offering his hand, " 'n'— wal, ye know 
how I feel in the matter." Then he bent forward, 
picked a coal out of the fire with the tongs, lit his 
pipe, and puffed away contentedly, as if he once 
more heard larks singing in the sky. From his 
viewpoint, there were no more clouds in it. 

And then, while Stacy mused upon the complica- 



•^-Kr: V,->.:fMMi':' 4JA^?*-".W!!*to" 




388 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



m 






ii 



tion and wondered how the elusive Hazel would 
act and feel when informed that he had had this 
deed drawn in her name and she was actually the 
owner of this now valuable swamp, Uncle Asa be- 
gan laughing; first, a low ripple, then louder, until 
it swelled into a " ha-ha-ha " that shook him. 
" Say, Stacy," he ejaculated, curbing it a little, 
"I've cut up some didoes in my time, but ne'/er 
one I laughed at arterwards like the minute I saw 
that nig turn a flip-flop ez that snake slid out o' 
the shoe! 'N' say," he continued after another 
burst of laughter, " do ye know I'd gin a fiver to 'a' 
seen that barkeep open the present he got from 
Curtis 'n' Company! I would right now! I only 
wisht the h lakes'd ben loose in the telescope so 
they'd 'a' slid out. Wouldn't that 'a' joggled him 
some ? " 

"Rather," returned Stacy, now laughing; "he'd 
certainly have thought he had 'em himself ! 

" And now," he continued, after quieting down 
and consulting his watch, "there are a few busi- 
ness matters I'd like you to attend to. First, I want 
you to see Squire Phinney in the morning and have 
this deed recorded and one made out to yourself, 
then copy of same to Bemis, Colby and Company, 
and all recorded in proper order. Then meet me 
at the hotel at noon for dinner, and you and Sam 



-,,. lU 



MWrH!TMS-.AW 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 389 

sign our partnersliip papers ; also discuss what land 
we had better buy or obtain options on at once. 
My idea is that we want all below your farm and 
perhaps an eighth of a mile back from the creek 
bottom lands down to its mouth, and a section 
across where your table is and where we camped. 
That is worthless sand now. V'hen that harbor 
is made available for coasters it will be worth 
thousands. This land below us, now covered with 
scrub, and sandy, is not of much value, either, at 
present. But it's along this side and towards the 
ocean that shops and tenement houses will first be 
built." And then on wings again, he launched into 
more explicit descriptions of his plans and present 
intentions. 

■vant you and Sam to manage this investment 
I.. . 'he declared as a finale, "and consult with 
me when needed. I've got two surveyors here now. 
In a few days, or as soon as we can house and 
feed them, I shall have fifty men at work on the 
dam foundation; also as many more clearing up 
the swamp when freezing weather comes. I think 
I'd better go now," he added, consulting his watch 
again and rising. Then and despite all Uncle Asa's 
urging and assertion that " Hazel's company '11 be 
goin' soon," Stacy hurried away. 

The fact was tliat he did not want to stay and 



M B ^ i?« H fl BMF^nf?t<ML m^iW '::%:e:wi3a^^K' j 



'■\v, 



Twfi 



390 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



f'',':,!. . 



meet that piquant lady this evening, but wished 
rather that she should know he had come and gone 
without attempting to see her. Despite all his heart- 
to-heart exchange with her father, Stacy still felt 
that she ought to have informed this Penrose fel- 
low that a caller was expected this evening, and 
so been ready to see him. 

Like some other men in this world, Stacy was 
inclined to feel himself the largest " pebble on the 
beach." 

Uncle Asa, however, felt that he, as 'le 'vould put 
it, " had got to cut a cat's claws," and it was no 
easy task to accomplish. He knew Hazel's spirit, 
knew how she felt about this deed matter — now 
common gossip, and that some unpleasant things 
would be said by her when this matter came up. 
Beyond that, and while he didn't blame Stacy, since 
he meant no harm, he felt that it was a thought- 
less act of his to have this deed drawn in her 
name. And he also very much desired lo bring 
about amiable relations between Hazel and Stacy 
with the hope tliat it might mature into something 
more. Not that he was a matchmaker or anxious 
to dispose of Hazfi, only — broad-minded and 
keen as he was — he saw the best that was in 
Stacy, and tliat below his surface nature, or a dis- 
position to be masterful and overconfident, lay the 






THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



391 



better attributes of honor, honesty, and generosity. 

" The fur'll fly, I s'pose," he said to himself, now 
freshening the fire, and still thinking of this task 
after Stacy had been gone a half hour, " 'n' dern 
that Penrose feller, anyway! Why don't he know 
'nufif to go home when it's time? He's sartinly a 
stayer! " 

Then he filled his pipe again and puffed away in 
glum silence for almost an hour, or until the kitchen 
clock chiined eleven, and Hazel's caller departed. 

Wal, he's gone finally, hez he? " he queried as 
Hazel now entered the kitchen, and without a smile. 
" Good deal like a burdock burr, wa'n't he, girlie? " 

" Yes, father," she answered dutifully, " and an 
awful bore, too. But I couldn't tell him to go, you 
see ? It was Mr. Whipple that called, wasn't it ? I 
recognized his voice." 

" Yes, jist to talk business a few minutes, he 
didn't stay long, bein' ez yew had company, I 
cal'late," returned her father, then paused, watching 
her still standing beside the chair Stacy had occu- 
pied. "Sit down, girlie," he added the next mo- 
ment. " I've got suthin' to talk over with ye. 

" It's this," he added, as she obeyed, " 'n' I want 
ye to take it cool, 'n' ez things are, to please me. 
Now, Mr. Whipple's all right 'n' I like him, ez ye 
know. But he's had a good deal on his mind lately, 



392 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



:^'i 






giltin' ready to tackle tlieni two sliarpers we 
scooped 'n' started towards a jail, anyhow, 'n' when 
he had that deed filled out in yewr name he didn't 
stop to think it might leak out 'n' do harm by 
shamin' ye, if it did." 

" Did he say so? " interrupted Hazel, anxiously. 
" He did, sartinly, but he don't know yew know 
it, or anybody but the Squire 'n' I, 'n' he made the 
Squire swear he wouldn't tell. 'N' I don't think 
he'd best be told ye know it, 'n' feel hurt," he added 
after a pause; "'twould make him feel 'shamed, 
too, 'n' won't help matters." 

" But why didn't he think first and not use my 
name and get me talked about '- " returned Hazel 
with rising anger " It's such an unusual thing that 
everybody is saying he expects I will marry him 
anyhow, and glad of the chance ! He has done an 
almost insulting thing, and the more I think about 
it, the madder I get ! " 

" Fergit it then," returned her father with a light 
laugh, " 'n' think how much wuss he might 'a' done ! 
He might 'a' tried to skin me outen the land 'stead 
o' insistin' on givin' me five thousand fer it ez he 
did this evenin'. Ez fer the talk. Hazel " — con- 
solingly — " thar ain't a gal here but what 'ud be 
tickled to pieces to hev a nicf feller like him fall 
over himself to make her sich a present ez that. 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 393 

Ez fer him 'spectin' you to marry him "— smiling 
now— "o' course he does if he kin coax ye to. 
Rut that ain't no insult, either. 

"'N' now to git to business," he continued 
soberly, " he wants you to deed this land over to me 
fer the looks on't, I'm to deed it over to his firm, 
'n' that's the end o' the transaction." 

" I am glad he had even so much consideration 
for public opinion," Hazel responded less tartly, 
" but he mustn't think he owns me or can buy me, 
for he never can ! " 

" O' course not, course not, no sich idee on his 
part, girlie," asserted Uncle Asa in his most sooth- 
ing tone, " leastwise not in the way you mean. 'N' 
yet he does mean to buy ye with his name, his 
feelin's, 'n' all he's got in the world, if he kin. 'N' 
ye orter feel proud ye're wuth all that to him." 
And Hazel, thus consoled by her tactful father, bade 
him good night and left the kitchen. 

"It'll all work out 'bout ez it alius does," he 
mused after she had gone. " Some scrappin' 'n' 
naggin' to begin, some makin'-up 'n' runnin' away 
to make him chase her, 'n' he doin' it, till courtin' 
days are over 'n' both sorry, same ez I was. 

"But I wish that Penrose feller 'ud hike back 
to Barre. He hain't no show with Hazel, 'n' he's 
only in the way. now." 



"' If I 



Sfff" 



CHAPTER XXXII 



UNCLE ASA'S measure of Stacy and his 
disposition to sulk if hurt was correct, tor 
lie did not call upon Hazel again for 
three weeks, and did not even see her except in 
church the following Sunday, and then hurried 
away after service to avoid meeting her. The facts 
were that he was entirely unconscious how morti- 
fied she had felt over the gossip regarding his use 
of her name in the deed he had had drawn, and 
ascribed her coolness and avoidance of him during 
the camping-out episode as an occult desire to im- 
press him with the fact that his society was not 
especially desired by her. 

" She distrusted me from the start," he assured 
himself again and again while nursing this fit of 
sulks; " she was half sorry for so doing when con- 
vinced I wasn't the robber she imagined, and was 
nice and sweet to me when we started on the camp- 
ing-out trip. Then, for fear I should presume 
upon it, or woman-like, not willing to own up she 
was wrong — presto, she got chilly again! Then, 
still further to impress rne with her total indiflfer- 
394 



THE CASTLE DUILnERS 



395 



ence, she invites this Barre (hide to call the evening 
I am expected! 

" It will be quite a long time before I try to see 
yoi' again, Miss Iceberg ! " 

In a way, too, Stacy was justified in feeling as he 
did, for while the desire to get square with a dis- 
reputable pair of swindlers for trying to play a 
sharp game of extortion on him had been one rea- 
son for his counterplotting, beyond that was the 
broader and nobler one of wishing to aid that good 
old Samaritan, Uncle Asa, and restore Hazel's 
heritage. He had spent hundreds of dollars in this 
quest, and much valuable time. He had almost ex- 
asperated his partner for so much delay of their 
business obligations, and now felt that the girl 
he had shown his admiration for in so many 
ways, and done so much to aid, miglit at least 
have been ready to receive and entertain him the 
first evening of his return to Oakdale. And he 
had assured Uncle .Asa that he should call then ! 

But Stacy, while sore at heart from Hazel's 
treatment, was not one to show it or let it interfere 
with business in any manner. He met Uncle Asa 
the next morning as cordially as ever, and soon as 
both deeds were properly executed and recorded, 
gave him a check for five thousand dollars as non- 
chalantly as though for five cents, then after again 



•[ 



. I 



{ 


lit 




r J 


F 


' 1 



i! 



396 



THF'. CASTLE BUILDERS 



requesting Squire Pliitiney to keep silent regarding 
tlie use of Hazel's name, invited Uncli; Asa over 
to the hotel to join with Sam in the signing of their 
partnership papers, and in a subsequent discussion 
of how much and what land to buy. He then 
joined the two surveyors in their work of mapping 
out the reservoir area, location of dam, and where 
to obtain stone for it, hired a few men and set 
them building barracks and cooking and dining- 
room adjacent to the selected site, and large enough 
to take care of the hundred or more men soon to 
be at work. He consulted with Bascom, and gave 
':'m orders for bedding, atid a cookin-' outfit for 
these, also for supplies; had a small shanty built 
for his own office near the camp, and as Bascom's 
store contained the only telephone coimecting Oak- 
dale with Barre, he ordered a branch line joining 
this with his office and hotel. With so much ac- 
complished towards the contract on hand, he visited 
Barre, hired about half the force of woodcl-oppers 
and stone masons needed, and set them at work. 
About fifty more came up later from Albion, and 
within two weeks, Sam was saying to the Old 
Guard " Things air hummin' now roundabout old 
B'ar Hole Swamp, 'n' suthin' doin' fer sartin. 

" He's a hustler, that Whipple feller, he is." Sam 
added admiringly, " 'n' if I'd any idee o' what was 






• ^<^^— jL 



^ 't v. 



.M 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



397 



in his nut tlie day he lit licre last June, I wouldn't 
'a' sprung tliat liell-hulc on him cz I did. But he 
don't lay it up agin me, jist took it ez 'twas meant, 
'n' I respect him fer it! He's all right, 'n' all 
wool, he is, 'n' goin' to be the makin' o' this 'ere 
town. 

" We're pards. too, in some buildin' plans in the 
futur," he admitted with satisfied smile at the 
group now enjoying the October afternoon sun- 
shine with him on the hotel piazza, " me 'n' Uncle 
Asa. 'N' some day this town'll wake up 'n' won't 
know what's hit 'em, they won't! Thar'll be trol- 
ley keers up to the depot, 'lectric lights a-goin' 
nights all over the town, ships'll be anchorin' in 
the mouth o' the crick, 'n' I wouldn't be s'prise' if 
we built this hotel bigger, jist to 'conmiodate t.y 
folks comin' summers, ez they will." 

" 'N' look at the money he's puttin' out now," 
interrupted Bascom with satisfaction, " 'n' most on't 
through me. He ain't no skinilint, he ain't. Jist 
come to me 'n' ordered everything he wanted off- 
hand 'thout drivin' any sort o' bargain. ' Bascora,' 
he says, beginnin' to write 'em down, ' here's a list 
o' things I want ye to git, 'n' make the price right 
fer spot cash down, 'n' ye git it ! ' I did, too, a 
check the next day arter I gin him a bill fer the 
fittin's o' his shacks. He's gooj pay, anyhow, 'n' 



, A ■•; 



I 



f' 



I u'^ i 



398 TIIR CASTLE BUILDERS 

llial's what I like Ijcst in any man," he continued 
gratefully; " no hangin' yc up, 'n' kecpin' yc waitin' 
fer pay till the 'count gits moss on't! " 

" I s'pose I might git a job bossin' so:;:;, o the 
men over to the dam," drawled Lcni Atwalcr, now 
catcliiiig some of this new enthusiasm. "I'd be 
willin' if he wanted me. Guess I'll ask him." 

" Vaas, you'd be willin' to do bossin', I'll bet," re- 
joined Sam in the same drawl. " But ye'll never 
do any work if ye kin duck it, Lem. Work 'n' yew 
never was good friends." 

V\'hile Oakdale w.-,s now all agog over Stacy's 
plans and doings, and rife with gossip concerning 
their outcome, its daily life was continuing in the 
same even tenor as usual. Each day Uncle Levi 
made his two trips to the depot and return, con- 
veying one sm.ill mail pouch and an occasional 
drummer. Nearly every other day Uncle Asa 
pulle.l down the creek to draw his pots, and that 
evening drove up to the village with his catch of 
lobsters, leaving most of them at the hotel. Occa- 
sionally, from fatherly interest in Stacy's appetite, 
a basket of clams was added to this contribution.' 
Hazel, al.so, in spite of her father's protest, had 
opened school again, and each tnorning and even- 
ing now trudged back and forth over the mile-and- 
a-half journey thus nade obligatory, and when Sun- 



r^7i 



., i '«?" 4 L 



THE CASTLK BUILUE'RS 



399 



I 



day came was as usual occupying lior position in tlic 
choir. And her exquisite voice drew more at- 
tendants than Parson Upson's ultra orthodox argu- 
ments ! 

Gossip was also rife concerning S' icy's interest 
in her and its probable result, for his gifts, sugges- 
tive attentions, and use of licr name in the deed 
pointed to but one conclusion. In the meantime, 
Stacy, entirely unconscious of how she felt about 
this matter, and of the persistent gossip, was so 
busy — in f.ict so overwhelmed with care and re- 
sponsibility, that he scarce knew what day of the 
week it was. 

Each morn, long before Hazel came up through 
the village schoolward bound, he left the hotel, ate 
dinner with his men to save time, and returned 
when sunset came, so naturally nc- r met her. He 
still nursed his pitiiu', however, and while he often 
glanced down towards Maple Dell longingly in go- 
ing or returning from his office near the camp, and 
had almost to grit his teeth when evening came 
to keep himself from calling on her again unbidden, 
his fit of sulks and " stick-it-out " nature prevailed 
over his heart hunger. His journey over the hills 
and along a new-made road to the dam site also 
brought him to a point where he could look down 
upon and reconnoiter her home, and here when 



400 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



i! 



alone, he invariably halted to do so, and see if 
perchance she was visible. He did see her once, 
thus watching, but at such a distance that he was 
sure she did not recognize him. The sight of her 
brought an unexpected thrill and consciousness 
that he was, after all, playing a fool's part, and 
gnawing a file. He also almost desired to curse 
himself for being unable to put her out of his mind 
and feelings. 

" It's a part of the illusion, I suppose," he as- 
serted to himself, philosophically, now striding on, 
" and what a consummate fool that will make of 
a man I " 

Uncle Asa, however, wise beyond either of these 
two actors in the real drama of life, saw that 
something was amiss in his pet project, and was 
pained accordingly. He had attended to his part, 
made deposit of the five thousand dollars in Hazel's 
name, and with Sam^ as bargain maker, had either 
bought or obtained options on all land of which 
Stacy had advised the purchase. He had also lo- 
cated where roads could best be cut through the 
swamp-bordering woods, shown Stacy where a 
spring could be tapped by a pipe and supply the 
best of water to his camp, and helped the surveyors 
in many ways. All the preliminary details of 
Stacy's dam and city-building plans were develop- 



I i 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 401 

ing in due order, but the most important — the 
inner one that was to bind Stacy's interest here 
— was apparently failing to materialize. Uncle 
Asa was too wise and tactful even to hint this to 
Stacy or Hazel, yet the fact that Stacy had not 
called at his home since the first night after his 
arrival for good, nor his name been mentioned by 
Hazel, seemed ominous. The coast was all clear 
now. Penrose, whom Uncle Asa had much de- 
spised, had returned to Barre, and Hazel, as if she, 
too, were piqued about something, either read in 
glum silence each long evening, or hied herself 
away to call on one of her girl friends. It wasn't 
right, according to her father's ideas and hopes, 
yet such were the facts. He also tried a diplomatic 
suggestion one day, but it failed of its object. 

" It's gittin' late in the season," he said to Stacy 
that day when he, as usual, made his visit to the 
camp to see how work was progressing, " 'n' we 
won't hev many more days warm 'nuflf to go shorin' 
agin this fall, I s'pose. I'd like to hev yew 'n' I 
go once more, howsomever," he continued, glanc- 
ing furtively at Stacy, who now looked up from 
his desk as he spoke, "jist yew 'n' I 'n' Hazel 
some Saturday when she's out o' school. How'd 
thai strike ye, Mr. Whipple? Ye've ben workin' 
stiddy now fer 'most three weeks, 'n' a day off'll 



!f1 



402 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



i^ 



..I 

iff 



do ye good, mebbe ? What do ye say to the idee ? " 
" I'll do it gladly," returned Stacy smiling, fully 
conscious of what was in Uncle Asa's mind. " In 
fact I would enjoy another day at the shore very 
much. I doubt if Miss Hazel would care to join us, 
however, unless her girl friends were asked. You 
can find out, though, and let me know. I am at 
your service any day you say." 

To have three girls along and a repetition of 
what he imagined had caused Stacy's fit of sulks 
on the previous outing, was not what Uncle Asa 
wanted, however, so he let the matter drop. 

" It's a mix-up all 'round," he asserted to himself 
soon after, homeward bound, "a sorter tangle I 
can't unravel. Hazel's sore over his usin' her 
name on the deed, 'n' he's sulky 'count o' the way 
she sent him off with the Oakes gal. On top o' 
this crisscross is that Penrose feller's cuttin' him 
out that evenin' he called, 'n' thar ye be ! Mebbe 
luck or the Lord'II pervide a way out o' the tangle, 
but I can't see one! Handlin' a couple o' balky 
lovers is wuss'n breakin' in a pair o' steers ! " 

Luck, however, did play a part in this complica- 
tion, and speedily, too, for the very next afternoon 
Stacy returning to the village two hours earlier than 
usual to see Bascom about some supplies, had just 
reached the main road when lie met the elusive 



III 

i 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



403 



Hazel, homeward bound from her school. She 
smiled and bowed with her invariable dignity, he 
raised his hat, smiling, also, then halted suddenly 
as she came up. 

" How do you do. Miss Webster," he said, speak- 
ing first in cool tone, " and how have you been 
since our camping-out party .-' " 

" Nicely, thank you," she returned in the same 
tone. " And how have you been? Very busy, 
from what I hear ? " 

" Yes," he rejoined, smiling ..gain, " so busy I've 
lost all count of time these days. Let me see, is it 
two weeks or a month since I was down to call on 
your father and didn't see you ? " 

" I really couldn't say," she answered in the same 
nonchalant tone. " Time passes quickly to me now 
that I am teaching school again. I think I saw you 
at church last Sunday, didn't I? Or was it two 
weeks ago? " 

" Two I should guess," he returned with furtive 
glance into her impassive face, and then a halt came 
to this cool and polite exchange; also an instan- 
taneous conviction in Stacy's mind that neither by 
word nor glance even would this icy maid allow 
him to infer that she cared one iota whether she 
ever saw him again or not. And almost also, did 
Stacy's pique and pride win over his heart-hunger, 



m 



r>73*?!PK3*irj«£:" 



, 1 
LI < 



404 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



and cause him to make a polite leave-taking and 
turn away. 

For one long moment, a crucial one in the heart- 
history of these two, Love and Pride hung at even 
balance in Stacy's mind, then Love won. 

" I was sorry not to see you the other evening," 
he next said in more cordial tone. " I rather ex- 
pected to." 

" So was I," smiling slightly again, " but I had 
an unexpected caller and you left before he did. 
You might try again?" she added piquantly. "I 
am usually at home evenings." 

" And find another caller monopolizing your com- 
pany?" 

" Possibly, though not probably. I have few 
friends here, and those f.rom Barre have gone 
home." Then, as if this vere all the encourage- 
ment she would give him, she took one step onward, 
then halted. 

" Well, I will try again," responded Stacy with 
more eagerness. "Perhaps this evening. Shall 
you be at home ? " 

" I expect to be," she returned, and with a 
"Thank you, then I shall call," from Stacy, he 
raised his hat, bowed, and turned away. 

" Pretty cool, but she's worth knuckling to," he 
muttered when well away from this fascinating 



^th^ 



Jtndtmi^ 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 405 

maid. " And proud ? Ye gods, but that's no name 
for it ! " And then recalhng her imphed invitation 
to call, somehow a keen thrill of satisfaction came 
with it, and forget frlness that he was still walking 
upon the earth. 

And something of the same buoyancy of heart 
gave Hazel's homeward footsteps a new resiliency ! 






Ill 



i« 



^''^SSK*' 



>ij^' 



^^vT?T3?T 




I ( 

i I 



1 




CHAPTER XXXIII 

IN spite of Hazel's first pique and vexation over 
Stacy's use of her name in the deed, and the 
consequent gossip, what her father had said 
and her own good sense had — during this three 
week's interim — softened the poignant barb, so to 
speak, and liealed the wound. Pride, also, was a 
factor, for his not calling again for so long was not 
flattering in the face of her girl friends' opinions 
of his eligibility, so freely expressed; and beyond 
that, what he had actually done for her father 
gradually appealed to her most of all. The one 
other sore spot in her feelings — the idea that he 
felt he could buy her — was also healing. Then 
again, like leaven in the mixture of many emotions, 
there were her own feelings. She was not in love 
with him as yet, felt positive her sole duty in life 
was devotion to her father, she loved her own 
freedom and meant to retain it ; and yet, despite all 
this, Stacy's bold, assertive ways, his well-proved 
business sagacity and lofty sense of honor, and 
more especially his devotion to her father's interests, 
406 



&!:• jwr:: ■ ^iii^"-«%tK.^.v.<r?. 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 407 

all known to her, were factors that kept his face 
in her mind at all times. 

" He is a man among men in spite of his sulkii:«!ss 
and imperious ways," her heart kept saying, and 
when he capitulated, so to speak, that crucial mo- 
ment on the highway, a sudden consciousness of her 
own power and worth and what it meant to him, 
brought a keen thrill of satisfaction. It is also need- 
less to say that when he presented himself at the 
throne of her gracious consideration that evening, 
she was garbed in her most becoming evening gown, 
vases filled with bunches of scarlet and yellow leaves 
graced the parlor, and a cheerful fire added its 
welcoming charm. And best of all, Hazel her- 
self, who with cheeks reflecting a faint touch of the 
glowing flames and eyes unusually tender, made the 
supreme and crowning feature of this homelike 
room. 

It is said that men marry with their eyes and 
women with their ears, and something of the same 
motive force now gave a bias to Stacy's feelings. 
For three weeks he had been starving himself for 
Hazel's face through pique. Each day about the 
only ones he had seen (excluding Norah's) had been 
the scores of coarse, hard-featured, or swarthy ones 
of his workmen ; and evenings, the brown, wrinkled, 



i; I! 



408 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



"I 



III* 



seldom-shaven faces of Sam and the Old Guard, 
or that of Uncle Asa. So that now to have the 
piquant, exquisitely-tinted and animated one of 
Hazel's smiling at him, seemed like a gift from the 
gods! 

And very grateful was he for it. 

" Your fire recalls our evening at the shore," he 
said, after she had installed him in an easy chair one 
side of it and herself opposite, " and all the romance 
of it, also. I have lived that eveni 'g over again 
many times since, and always hear ne low wave- 
wash when I do, and your banjo as well." 

" Living over pleasant hours and experiences is 
the best part of them, I think," she returned dream- 
ily, as if now recalling this one. " Much depends 
upon one's moods, however, at the time. That is, 
whether we a.e in a receptive one or not." 

" You believe in moods then ? " 

" Why, yes, how can one help it ? It's like a 
sense of obligation that forces itself upon you and, 
as Emerson says, ' Life is but a succession of moods, 
varying ever like those of a kaleidoscope.' Mine 
are, anyway, and what I say and do in one, I am apt 
to repent of in another." 

" That recalls Sam and his observation about his 
mine certificate," rejoined Stacy with a smile. 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



409 






" He has it framed to keep and prove how many 
kinds of fool a man can be and live, he says." 

" So I have heard," responded Hazel, also smil- 
ing. " Not much happens here without all Oakdale 
hearing of it." 

" My comings and goings and all about my plans, 
also, I presume," queried Stacy, seeing a faint light. 

" Of course, and to a greater extent than you 
imagine, I presume " — glancing curiously at him. 
" To live here is like dwelling in a glass house that 
keeps no secrets." 

" Not even those promised to be kept inviolate on 
honor?" questioned Stacy, seeing more light. 

"Very few," flushing and looking down; "and 
worse than that, what we don't say and do, but might 
or might not, is also discussed." 

For one long moment Stacy stared at the fire 
while this suave admission with its occult insinua- 
tion was digested, then a sudden impulse to admit 
his own mistakes came. 

" Miss Webster," he said earnestly, " you have 
opened my eyes io a situation here I wasn't aware 
of, and I am sorry for what I now see was an un- 
wise act on my part, though meaning no harm, and 
quite thoughtless. Did you hear that I had a deed 
of Bear Hole Swamp drawn in your name before I 



f/;l 



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410 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



took your father to New York ? I mean before he 
asked you to sign another one over to my firm ? " 

" I did," she answered, flushing again. " I was 
told of it the morning we started on our camping- 
out trip." 

Then Stacy gave a low and prolonged whistle, for 
now the origin of all his vexation was made clear. 

" So much for trusting a man's word of honor," 
he next said with sarcastic inflection, " or believing 
he can keep a secret. I feel like cowhiding Squire 
Phinney." And without waiting for any response 
from Hazel he hurriedly gave her an accurate ac- 
count of his reasons for using her name in the deed. 

" 1 dared not take the chance and go to this Curtis 
North with my name or your father's in the deed," 
he added in conclusion, " for my act was, after all, 
a game of extortion. This swin r had actually 
bought and paid full price for the ' id, you see, and 
the next best plan was to use you. j, because I knew 
you would transfer the property back to us if your 
father said so. My action, and I was forced to it," 
he added regretfully, "has cost you a great deal of 
humiliation, I am sure, by being gossiped about, and 
me three weeks of lonesome evenings when I 
■anted to be down here calling on you." 

Then Hazel grew rose-red, for this was almost a 
confession of love. 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 411 

"I am sorry for tht last part," she admitted 
naively ; " tlie other I don't care atout now. It did 
hurt me at first, however, for I did not understand 
it. I've grown used to the gossiping tongues now, 
and don't care about them," slie added hastily, " so 
long as my own conscience is c'.^ar." She pauMcl 
with downcast eyes. One instant only, wliile Stacy 
watched lier admiringly, then looked up. " I, too, 
am sorry for something," she next asserted, " and 
that is my own neglect in thanking you for all you 
have done for father. It has lifted a load from his 
heart and made him ten years younger. I should 
have done so that day at the sliore. I do so now 
and from the bottom of my heart." 

" Forget it, please," rejoined Stacy briskly, " for 
I am still in your debt for having so mortified you. 
Also, let me assure you that I, too, feel that your 
father is worth doing a good turn for any time. I 
haven't forgotten how nice he was to me when I 
came here, or the glorious shortcake you prepared 
for us that day," he added, as if wishing to dismiss 
the more serious matter. "I only hope I shall 
be here when strawberries come again, and get an- 
otlier. I presume I shall, for we have quite a con- 
tract on hand." 

" So I understand," with sudden interest, " for 
father keeps me informed about your doings. I'd 



w. 'tit-' wcwmr/irw^K^ 



412 



THE CASTLK BUILDERS 



like to cmne up and see your buikling operations 
some Saturday. May I ? " 

"Most certainly, delighted to have you," witJi 
eagerness. " Come any time and bring all your 
girl friends." And i.'ki, as might be expected, he 
launched into a description of his work and how it 
was carriL ' on. "I hope to have the dam up by 
spring," he explained in conclusion, " and the 
swamp cleared by then, or at least all available tim- 
ber hauled out, and the brush ready to burn. When 
the dam is done and we are ready to close the gates, 
I shall have my partner and my good aunt, who 
adopted me years ago, come up; also invite every- 
body here to help celebrate that event. Give them 
a feast. 

"A clambake, perhaps," he added after a mo- 
ment's thought. "That wouldn't be a bad idea, 
would it, with your father as its master spirit? 

" And now to change the subject," he continued, 
after this liad been fully discussed, and smiling, 
"you have listened patiently to all my prosy dis- 
quisition on dam building, let me do some listening 
while you favor me. You can guess how," and he 
nodded towards the piano. 

" With pleasure," smiling at his original way of 
asking. "Which shall it be — piano, harp, or 
banjo?" 



THE CASTLK BUILDERS 413 

" The harp first so I can go back to the fir«< time 
I saw you, and a few songs later. My thr :s' 

penance for my sins and Sam's company evenings 
has made ;:ie nuisic-hungry — starved, in fact." 

"So I judge by your modest request," she re- 
torted smiling; "but if you feel you have lieen 
properly punished for your unsocial conduct, you 
shall be rewardeil." 

And reward him she did, without urging and with 
an hour-long medley of her choicest musical gems. 
She then brought in a tray of light refreshments, 
urged him to enjoy a cigar after that, freshened the 
fire, and drew her own chair up for further con- 
verse, and so the evening passed. 

And a delightful one it was to Stacy, now more 
in love than ever with this daintily beautiful, tact- 
ful, and charming little lady who had the rare art of 
inspiring his best thoughts, and being an apprecia- 
tive listener as well. She really did mean to be 
entertaining, also, not from any desire to ensnare — 
that was beneath her — but from a gracious wish 
to show her appreciation of what he had done for 
her father. Also, and beyond that, to make amends 
for her own previous distrust and coolness. He 
noticed, too, that she wore the beautiful slippers he 
had sent her; the books of his selection were all 
conspicuou>i upon the parlor table; and more flat- 



Ill 



m 



] 



.£.. ■■■ 4 



kW- 






414 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



tering even than those evidences of her occult tact, 
was the persistency with which she kept him talking 
about his own plans and city-building intentions. 

And if there is any one thing more flattering to 
a man than another (and most men hunger for it), 
it is to keep him talking about himself I And the 
sweetest flattery of all, is to have a charming lady 
do it! 

" I have had a most delightful evening, Miss 
Webster," he assured her at parting; " how much so 
you can't realize unless you know the scope and 
ancient story-telling proclivities of Sam's retinue, 
which I've had to endure now for three weeks. I 
trust I may impose upon your charity again, and 
often?" 

" I shall be pleased to see you any evening," she 
responded, smiling archly; "and if I have callers 
and your courage fails, you can take refuge behind 
the grindstone again. I hope it will not, however." 

And once more as he now strode d iwn the leaf- 
c-irpeted lane, the light pressure of her little hand 
at parting was with him, the rustling of the brown 
leaves beneath his feet was like the tinkle of tiny 
bells, and a wonrfrous, newborn buoyancy of feel- 
ing, made the star-lit night seem glorious. 

" I am in for it, and no escape now," he said, 
measuring his own feelings philosophically, and 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



415 



fully conscious of what this elation meant. " It's 
either yes or no, heaven or the other place for me, 
that's certain 1 But bless her sweet soul, she's 
worth it, ten times over ! " 

When he reached the hotel his only welcome was 
one small lamp left burning for him, but by it he 
despatched a rather laconic missive. 

" Dear Bert," he wrote. " Send me three dozen 
American Beauty roses by express, and have them 
here by Saturday, sure. Yours ever, Stacy." 

Then, in order that his letter would go out on the 
n.: -ning mail, he hastened over to Bascom's store 
to post it. 

He received an answer by due return of mail, and 
said reply must also be quoted. 

" Order for flowers received and shipped to-day. 
Bill for fifteen dollars enclosed." his partner wrote, 
" and may you be happy ever after. I am sure you 
are in Oakdale. Also the girl. I assume you are 
attending to our business part rf the time, but that 
is only a guess. When is the wedding? Yours, 
Bert." 



m 



CHAPTER XXXIV 



hi i 
I'ii 



MOODS dominate the action of a man in 
love more than at any other period of 
his existence, and so it was with Stacy. 
He had felt himself ill-used by Hazel and nursed 
his pique for three weeks, suffering accordingly, 
and then when her adroit hint of her own feelings 
and cordial reception had effectually obliterated his 
sense of injury, he felt in a mood to rush headlong 
into a proposal of marriage. His good sense, and 
the consciousness that Hazel could not be won 
lightly still ruled him, however ; he also felt that he 
had better go slowly in the matter, and pay court 
to her for a few months before risking the all- 
important question. 

"One robin doesn't bring spring, or one smile 
mean a woman is won," he said to himself the next 
morning on his way over to the camp and halting 
to reconnoiter Hazel's home once more, "and I'd 
better be cautious and not slop over with you, my 
sweet Iceberg! She is keen enough to understand 
the drift of every word or act of mine," he added, 
now striding on. " She will know, or knows al- 
416 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 417 

ready, that I mean to win her if I can, and for the 
rest, when she feels ready to say ' yes,' she will give 
me an adroit hint of it." 

In this latter conclusion, however, he was mis- 
taken, as many a man has been before. In business 
matters, Stacy, as may be inferred, was methodical, 
and mvariably laid his plans far ahead of their pos- 
sible consummation, as he had in this city-building 
air castle of his. Naturally, also, he now went 
about his plots and plans of love-making in the same 
manner. 

" I mustn't bore her," he said to himself again 
and returning to the subject now uppermost in his 
mind after he had made the rounds of his gangs of 
men at work that morning. "Her isolated life 
with her books and music has made her self-con- 
tained and analytical. There is no society here, so 
she doesn't need an escort. Her school furnishes 
her diversion enough, so if I win her at all, it must 
be by so apper'^ng to her mind that she will come 
to need my company, and for that I've got to keep 
my wits awake, polished, and with an edge on all 
the time." 

And in this conclusion le was quite right ! 

While Stacy was now sure to be building the air 
castle of love, the more practical one of his dam 
and reservoir still intruded, and must intrude for 



W^TTM^ 



^x-^ 



t|;' 



418 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



months to come. He had by this time about fifty 
men at work digging, quarrying and squaring stone, 
and hauling it to the dam site. Also as many more 
felling the trees bordering the two-mile long by 
one-quarter wide area of Bear Hole Swamp, or 
cutting and piling the brush in the morass part of 
it, ready for a grand conflagration when spring 
came again. A cook and "cookee," or assistant, 
were kept very busy feeding these, they must be 
detai'-fd in gangs with sub-bosses to direct opera- 
tions, and wliat with supplies to be kept coming, the 
general plan of all work to be directed by Stacy, 
order preserved, and details looked after, he was 
busy from morning until night. In a way, also, 
his operations, and the rude barracks with their 
cook-room and dining-room amid the pines below 
the dam site, much resembled a lumber camp in the 
woods. It was out of -ight or sound of the village, 
the grand old trees filling the gorge below the site 
chosen between two abutting hills, and tlie leaping, 
brawling stream, added romance to the seclusion. 
Uncle Asa, with a fatherly interest in Stacy and the 
all-important operations, usually paid the camp a 
daily visit, and when he came again, on the after- 
noon after Stacy had made his peace witli Hazel, 
so to speak, that young man was more an.xious to go 
shoring again than previously. 



[■!, J>ji,i i 



r^^^¥WM^m 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 419 

" I've thouglit over your suggestion to make an- 
other trip to the shore, Uncle Asa," he said to him, 
coming to the point at once, " and as to-morrow is 
Saturday and Miss Hazel free from school, if slie is 
willing and you say the word, I am with you." 

" Wal, that suits me," was the smiling rejoinder, 
" 'n' I'll tell Hazel slie's wanted by both on us. I 
don't cal'late we need the other gals, do we? " 

" No, decidedly not," returned Stacy, noticing the 
amused twinkle in Uncle Asa's eyes ; " just we three 
and a warm day is enough." 

"Wal, I guess we'll git it," responded that 
weather-wise man, squinting at the lowering sun, 
" 'n' I'm powerful glad yew'll git away. 

" I alius sorter want to hang onto the warm fall 
days," he added with a shade of pathos, " '11' make 
the most on 'em. They don't last long. I dread 
winters more 'n' more, 'n' thar ye be." 

And so it came to pass the next day that these 
three good friends with plenty of wraps, basket of 
table accessories, and good spirits galore, once more 
followed the ebb tide's outflow down the winding 
creek. 

" I'll pull my pots," said Uncle Asa after land- 
ing, " 'n' yew two must keep house till I'm back." 
And thus exhorted to become domestic, Hazel and 
Stacy were left to their own fate. 



'I<S- 




420 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



And both were very willing! 

" Why is it," queried Stacy after the table had 
been made ready and driftwood for fire duly gath- 
ered, " that cooking and eating away in the woods 
or beside the shore is attractive to so many people? " 

"Just the romance of it, I presume," smiled 
Hazel, " or to escape the trammels of home life. 
To be able to eat like a savage and throw clam shells 
on the ground as we do here. What is your 
theory ? " 

" Inherited instinct, I am inclined to think," re- 
turned Stacy, glancing up the long stretch of wave- 
washed shore, "and the habits of our primal an- 
cestors. They lived a savage life. To obtain, 
cook, and eat food was their principal and most 
enjoyable occupation, so we, inheriting that impulse 
and pleasure, obtain an unusual satisfaction by im- 
itating their way of living. I find myself envying 
my men in their crude life in the Bear Hole gorge, 
sitting around camp fires under the pines each even- 
ing as they do. As I recall them, the pleasantest 
days of my life have been those spent camping in 
some wilderness." 

"You are much like father in that respect," 
Hazel answered, smiling at Stacy's animated face. 
" The most enjoyed of all his days have been spent 



«::■'* 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 421 

here, and he has always brought me, if possible, 
since I was a little tot." 

"This is a sort of trysting spot for you two, 
then, and why he brought us all here for the camp- 
ing-out party, I guess." 

" Of course, and it makes him like a boy again, 
for which I am more than thankful." 

" And my coming and plans are to spoil this spot 
for him," continued Stacy regretfully, glancing 
around its isolated condition. And it was very 
much so, for the scattered houses of Oakdale four 
miles up the opening valley and Uncle Asa's fish- 
house and little wharf inside the sand spit were all 
the visible signs of human handiwork, while to 
right and left lay the in-and-out curving, wave- 
washed beach, far as the eye could see. Not a 
house or solitary human being was in sight along 
this lonely shore with jagged and serrated bulwarks 
of sedge-topped sand forming the inner coast line. 
Back of this lay a growth of low scrub rising to the 
wooded hills and just now ablaze with autumn color, 
and thousands of barberry bushes vividly red from 
ripened berries. 

" I don't wonder your father loves this spot, Miss 
Webster," Stacy asserted again after his prolonged 
look around and up and down the white, glistening 



422 THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

beach with here and there a flock of gulls circling 
over it or alighting upon a point of sand, " for here 
one can forget the world and feel that he is by the 
world forgot. 

"How does it aflfect you, Miss Hazel?" he 
queried after a pause, and venturing so to address 
her. " Pardon my freedom, but I'd like to drop 
formality and use your given name now. May I? " 
" You may call me Hazel here or at home," she 
responded naively and with a dreamy glance at the 
yeasty wave-wash not two rods from where they 
sat. " I, too, dislike formal addresses." 

And just then Stacy, glancing at her half-averted 
face, rose-tinted by the sea wind and crowned by a 
mobcap of soarlet, below which a few locks were 
astray, felt a new sense of proprietorship, and that 
he had won a long step towards her confidence and 
possible love. 

"You must excuse my pr"Occupation," she 
averred suddenly, turning toward him after a long 
pause; " what were you asking a moment ago? " 

"Why, how thi? lone and lonely shore affects 
you. How does it?" 

" As you see "— smiling—" puts iti'- 'n a trance, 
a dream, and makes me forget my ™ds, my 
school, everything, and everybody, as i .lave now. 
This spot and mood has been mine many times be- 



'"Twy 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



423 



fore," she added with more animation. " It's been 
my playmate, as it were, since a child. Then I used 
to help father dig clams or sit in the bow of his 
boat and watch him pull pots out on the tossing 
billows. Now I have become a dreamer, I guess, 
for lately I've let him go out alone while I stay 
ashore and enjoy my trance. I've sat right here 
alone three long hours many a time, and quite un- 
conscious of the lapse of time ; also quite happy." 
" And would be now if alone, I assume? " 
" Why, yes and no," glancing at him with droll 
smile. " I'm glad to have company, but I don't 
need it to be content. Do you always ? " 
" I must also say yes and no. I am not 

" ' A hermit soul that can live withdrawn 
To the place of its self-content,' 

as Sam Walter Foss says. I can go to that solitary 
retreat and abide a few hours happily, then my 
thoughts begin to bore me and I sigh for company 
— a congenial soul upon whom I can inflict my 
musings." 

" And can you find such a one easily? " glancing 
nt him with an amused smile. " I never could. 
Most pe(ipU bore n\e. I like them in a way. Like 
to be told their joys, sorrows, and moods, briefly 
and for a time, and then, pusto : after that they be- 
gin to bore me atwt I'd rather be alone." 



424 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 






)■■ 



" You can then live ' in the place of your self- 
content ' and be happy, I assume?" smiled Stacy, 
peeping at her again. 

" Why, yes, to be perfectly honest, I think I can. 
The only person who never did bore me is father. 
We go around together, often an hour without once 
speaking, and quite happy. I think it's because we 
both feel that we need not talk if we don't want to; 
just be together or within sight, that is all." 

" Two hermit souls, eh ? " queried Stacy, more 
than ever interested in this dreamy one beside him 
" And yet I envy you both. It is a splendid thing 
to be content without company. It has been well 
said that those who are good company to themselves 
are pleasant companions to have, however. It is so 
with your father, I know. I've had quite a number 
of long visits with him and every moment enjoy- 
able. How will it be between you and me should 
you guess?" 

"That is easily answered," she returned archly 
and eyes atwinkle like her father's ; " we shall often 
almost come to blows as we did that first evening 
when father interfered, or I shall bore you intensely. 

" ' New people are like old wine,' to quote Emer- 
son again," she continued more seriously. " They 
pique, amuse, interest, or exasperate us as the case 
may be for a time, then after we come to kaow 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



42s 



them, seem commonplace. All but a select few, 
who become friends akin to us. That has been my 
experience. Also that to have a very few friends 
and dear ones is better than to have a host of 
acquaintances." 

" And mine as well," agreed Stacy. " Strangers 
wear a halo, friends never do, and a hero is never 
one to his valet. To become commonplace to those 
we like and wish to have like us is pitiful. We 
want them to enjoy us, we desire to enjoy them, yet 
perpetually on guard stands the Ogre of Satict;. and 
Commonplaceness, an invisible personage whisper- 
ing, ' Keep apart, lest ye bore one another.' That is 
your idea, isn't it ? " 

" In a way, yes, and yet not," she answered mus- 
ingly. "I feel as you do about friends. I want 
mutual enjoyment to come. I positively dread to 
feel a sense of boredom. I try to avoid it as much 
as possible. To that end, and because of this out- 
tome, I also avoid too intimate relations ; too close 
contact of mind with mind. It's far safer for souls 
to dwell apart." 

" The herm't soul again," laughed Stacy. " I 
shall soon believe you have one after all." 

" I think I have, too," she returned with aive 
frankness. " I've lived alone in thought since old 
enough to think for myself. All my real friends 



II 



^^ 



426 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



ii !• 



iiatii. 



who never bore me are my books and fatlier, so I 
have become a hermit soul, I guess. I am satistk-d. 
however. To be able to live alone contentedlv is 
to attain self-reliance, and that is no easy task. 
Can you ? " And she turned her fathomless eyes 
full upon Stacy now. 

" No," he admitted, seeing a chance to score a 
point; " if I could, I wouldn't be here sitting on the 
sand with you. I'd be attending to my duty at the 
dam. 

" And by the way," he added, noting her slight 
flush following his assertion, " when are you to 
honor my new enterprise with your presence, as you 
promised? Won't you come up and inspect it now 
that we have — buried the hatchet ? " 

" I wasn't aware we owned one of those ominous 
things," she answered, smiling, " and I will visit 
your camp next Saturday morning with father 
and perhaps some of the girls. They are all anx- 
ious to see what you are doing. When will it be 
finished? " 

" In seven months, I hope. I mean to close the 
gates on my birthday. May eleventh, and to cele- 
brate that by so doing. I hope you will do the 
honors on that occasion and lower the gate; also 
break the customary bottle of wine over it." 

Then, as was natural with him, he gave her a 



THE CASTLE DUILDERS 



Ai? 



brief resumj of his progress and plans in this work, 
and they were more condensed I. a siial, for her 
hint of being easily bored had born fruit. Then, 
returning from a stroll doivn the beach to watch a 
flock of gulls that had alit^lncd upon a bared sand- 
bar, they met Untie Asa just landing at his wharf. 

" I've had big luck I'l-dii^, " he asserted buoyantly, 
in response to St:u - nsiiul query, and divesting 
himself of his twiaUs. " Got n-M'c!) ez fifty 
pounds, 'n' saved sli irts lUitT fi r a f;ood boil. 

" We'll have a feast ,i(.,v " 'e .t 'ded, p,issing the 
basket of lobsters to Sl.i' y. " I'm liunj;ry 'nuflf 
to eat a mule with the harness on. Iluw are you 
children?" 

He next busied himself in the fire building; his 
big iron pot was brought from the fish house by 
Stacy, and with salt water in it was put r.ver that to 
boil. He next went to the spring to bring water 
for coffee, and then began helping Ha:?el set the 
table, and soon a most toothsome meai of those 
chicken lobsters with plenty of butter and hot cof- 
fee was ready. Hazel had also brought a few 
other delicacies for dessert, and after the feast 
Uncle Asa hurried away to dig a mess of clams, as 
the bared flats now permitted. 

" He means to leave us alone as much as possi- 
ble," Stacy asM rted to himself, next hastening away 



). 



'ill 



m 



428 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



J /!*■ 



Lt*| 



to bring more water for dish-washing use, " and 
bless his dear old heart for it! He is of the salt 
of the earth, and all wool — no, all silk! And 
Hazel ? Well, you are a keen one and no mistake I 
1( I can court you without boring you, I'm smart; 
that is all ! " 

And Stacy was duly and decidedly right in that 
surmise. 

He smiled at himself later on, in fact, laughed 
aloud as he began wiping the dishes that Hazel 
washed. 

" If my partner could see me now," he declared 
in response to her inquiry, " he'd shout with insane 
hilarilv. And my Aunt Carrie, mother, I call her 
— well, she'd want to kiss you, Miss Hazel." 

"Would she, and v.'. '" queried that little lady 
demurely, also fully conscious how fast this asser- 
tive young man was becoming enamored of her own 
sweet self. 

" Well, in the first place, because she, being of 
rural birth, admires country-born girls; and next, 
she has a most- — motherly interest in me," re- 
sponded Stacy, not quite daring to admit the truth 
or how anxious his aunt was he should win this 
m.nid. 

" Most of my friends would laugh, also, to see 
me wiping dishes," lie continued hurriedly, " and 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 429 

it is funny, and the first time I ever did so. I hope 
I may have the privilege again, and right liere with 
you." 

" I think we had better go and lielp father and 
wash his clams and leave the dishes to dry," re- 
joined Hazel, as soon as she handed the last one to 
Stacy, and to forestall further love utterances from 
him. "We are leaving father to do all the hard 
work." And quite oblivious to her own shoes, she 
led the way out upon the clam flats where he was 
doubled over. 

And Stacy felt like picking her up and carrying 
her; also like taking his coat oflf for her to stand 
upon. He forgot his own boots as well in this new 
call; forgot his cuffs, his new fall suit — in fact, 
forgot everything except the one supreme fact that 
he was now bon-comrade with this exquisite little 
lady, and privileged to call her Hazel. He also 
rushed back to the fish house to bring her j board 
to stand upon as soon as he noticed how wet the 
sand was. whereupon Uncle .\sa smiled serenely. 

" Mce feller, 'n' thinks quick, which is what I 
like in him," he ejaculated, looking up to .see what 
Stacy was after. " 'N' say, girlie." he added ten- 
derly, " don't lay <ip that deed matter agin him any 
more, -ill ye? He didn't mean 110 harm, jist 
thoughtless, that's all. '.\' 'member this, he may 



: ' 



430 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



be bossy 'n' sulky, but if he's handled right, he'll 
be all right. I've got faith in him." And having 
thus adjured his well-beloved " girlie " he bent to 
his work again. 

" I'm mighty glad we took the day oflF 'n' come," 
he asserted a half-hour later, after all their belong- 
ings were stored in his small dory, and Hazel, well 
wrapped by Stacy, had taken the bow seat. " Pow- 
erful glad, I tell ye, children. Fust, because we've 
had a day 'n' dinner to think on, 'n' live over all 
winter, 'n' tliat's some comfort to me. I like this 
spot, Stacy," he added, addressing him, after tak- 
ing his seat and glancing back at the wave-washed 
shore. " Like it bctter'n anywliere else in all the 
world. I've sometimes thought I'd build me a 
shack 'ii' live here all summer. I may do it yit, jist 
to be near the water, 'n' hear it nights. Nothin' 
like the lullin' o' the waves to go to sleep by," he 
continued more earnestly, " 'spesldy when ye git old 
'n' .sleep comes hard. 'N' then niornin's here with 
the sun jist risin' 'n' the breeze blowin' in, 'n' right 
back in the bushes birds a-singin' ! Wal, 'cordin' 
to my notion, it's 'bout cz near to heaven ez I'll ever 
git. I'd hcv to come to mcetin' once in a while to 
hear Hazel sing," he continued tenderly, as if her 
future was to be apart from his. " 'N' o' course 
she'll hev to come 'n' slick the shack up now 'n' 



r-*:«i 



¥M 



THE CASTL1-: EUILDF.RS 



431 



then 'n' hev dinner with me. Couldn't git along 
'thoiit seein' Hazel once a week, anyhow." And 
then as if this quite romantic outcome 'vere his last 
will and testament, he bent to his oars in sturdy 
silence. 

" I want tc call Sunday eve ; may I ? " queried 
Stacy in a low tone when he parted from Hazel at 
the foot of the lane. And with her smiling, " I 
shall he glad to see you," he strode away. 

And so ended a day that he never afterwards 
recalled without feeling that it ushered in a new 
existence for him. as in truth it did. 

A quite suggestive and pretty surprise awaited 
Hazel in her parlor, also, for there in two vases 
were the three-dozen roses Stacy had ordered sent 
to himself, and which his partner had wisely directed 
to Miss Hazel Webster. 

" They came this arternoon," Aunt Sally ad- 
mitted, " 'n' ez the box said ' flowers,' I put 'em in 
water to keep." 

And then there cime to Hazel a queer little tug at 
her heart-string.s, for what with all her father had 
said that day. and her fast-changing fi-eling towards 
Stacy, it seemed her own future was already deter- 
mined, as in a wav it was. 



'^ 



: 



66 



D 



CHAPTER XXXV 

^ID a box come for me to-day, Sam?" 
demanded Stacy of that worthy on his 
return, and after reading his partner's 
laconic missive. 

" No-o," drawled Sam with a comical twinkle in 
his eyes. " Uncle Levi only fetched one box from 
the train to-day. ' Big box o' flowers,' he said, 
' fer Hazel Webster.' Mebbe it come from that 
Barre feller ez was here so long. He war kinder 
stuck on her, folks said." And Sam followed that 
assertion with a droll grin at Stacy. 

That evening, also, with Stacy for sole companion 
— the Old Guard for a wonder being absent — he 
also relieved his mind, and made a few other admis- 
sions that in justice to him must be quoted. 

" I s'pose you think my jokes are kinder hard 
on folks, Mr. Whipple." he b<g,in with as soon as 
Stacy liail lighted hi< after-supper cigar, " 'n' mebbe 
they be, but I don't rr-.-an no harm. Things are 
kinder .■ilmv in this hotel fer me. Nothin' doin' but 
see to the grub part, tend fires, 'n' set 'round waitin' 
fer folks to come 'ii' go. 'n' I need lixcnin' up, I 
432 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



433 



do. Then agin tliar's some o' the drummers comes 
here, they really need suthin to show 'em we ain't 
asleep ef we don't hev our hair cut once a week. 
I like the drummers ; most on 'em are slickers, full 
o' fun, sharper'n tacks, square's a brick, 'n' alius 
pay. They all lay fer me, though, knowin' my ways 
'n', b'gosh, they ketch me now 'n' thea Thar war 
one on 'em did once, mighty cute, too, 'n' scared 
me so I bit my tongue. He war a cigar drummer 
name o' Cady, Byron Cady, 'n' the funniest story 
teller on the pike. Alius got two or three new ones, 
'n' kin tell 'em jist right, too. Wal, he cnmc 'long 
with one o' them loaded cigars he'd had made fer 
me, fixed with a spring inside so when it burned an 
inch the spring' ud spread 'n' rip it all to pieces right 
under your nose. ' Sam,' he said that evenin' when 
we was all 'round the fire, ' I got a new brand o' 
clear Havana, Sumatra wrapper, that'll jist suit ye, 
'n' yer trade, 'n' I want ye to try one.' Then he 
goes to his case, opens it front o' me, takes the cigar 
out o' a box full 'n' o' course I lit it, fer when he 
gives ye a cigar it's alius a good un. Wal, then I 
tihed back in my chair 'n' he begins tellin a funny 
story 'bout a Frenchman who run a ferry boat, 'n' 
he kin hit off them Frenchies' lingo talk so ye'll 
split a-laughin' ! Wal, I war pullin' at that cigar 
jist ez he got to the funny part, 'n' then it went off 



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434 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



'n' over I went back'ards, kerwhack, n' he 'n' the 
whole bunch jist roared fer ten minutes. 

" Wal, o' course I took it good-natured ; I had to, 
but I laid fer Cady, 'n' the next time he come 'long 
I was ready with 'bout a dozen blue crabs I got 
down tlie crick. Now a blue crab, Mr. Whipple, cz 
ye njay not know, is a little cuss 'bout two inches 
broad with claws sharp ez needles, 'most, 'n' he kin 
use 'em quicker'n scat, 'n' bite hard ez a big lobster. 
Wal, Cady, he's a slick dresser, never goes out even- 
in's 'thout his top coat 'n' gloves on, 'n' the next 
time he come, 'n' when he put on his coat to go call 
on Bascora, ez I knew he would, thar wa'n't no 
gloves in his pockets, but them crabs was. O' 
course I cal'lated Cady ud feel fer them gloves 'n' 
ketch crabs, but it didn't somehow work. He pui 
his coat on back o' the desk in the office whar he'd 
hung it back o' the door, wa'n't over a minute 'bout 
it, 'n' walked out smilin'. He'll find them crabs 
perty soon, I says to myself, chucklin', 'n' then 
thar'll be suthin doin'. I waited 'most an hour, 
then needin' a chew went to my coat hangin' in the 
office, too, ez I'd left a plug o' tobaccer in an out- 
side pocket, 'n' by crackee, I got pinched by three o' 
them crabs quicker'n scat ! 'N' by gosh, they took 
holt right sharp, they did ! 

" The worst on't was I gin a yip 'fore I thought 




THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



435 



'n' threw one 'o them crabs over the desk, 'n' the 
hull crowd I'd posted up ketched on, 'n' the laugh 
was on me. 'N' how they roared! I had to set 
'em up all round, 'n' when Cady come in they told 
him I'd bin cliewin' blue crabs fer a change, 'n' it 
cost me 'nother round." 

Sam was a voluble talker as well as inveterate 
joker, and while Stacy's thoughts were now on 
Hazel and the sweet illusion of love, instead of 
Sam's yarns, he had to listen to them for an hour. 

Next morning, and a beautiful October one, 
Stacy joined the Sunday worsliippers then entering 
the largest church where Hazel sang and here a .sur- 
prise awaited him, for on its aluir siuod a vase of 
beautiful American Beauty roses! 

" My contribution to her," lie thought, " and she 
brought them up this morning, bless her! And 
Bert was wise to send them to her direct after all." 
Tlien smiled softly, as he now recalled hi.", laconic 
letter. 

He watched for Hazel's piquant face to rise 
al)ove the choir curtains, felt himself transported 
to that "Beautiful Land on High" she sang as a 
solo later on, and felt almost a sense of ovvnersliip 
in lier now, and that his future held a new and 
wondrously sweet charm. He waited for her to 
come out tliis lime, received a sliglil bow and cordial 



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" Good morning " as she passed him on the steps, 
then crossed to the hotel, conscious that many of 
that congregation had observed this recognition and 
were positive he was now Hazel's " beau." Also 
quite proud to be so consk)er«d, as well he might 
be! 

Somehow, also, the rest of the day seemed in- 
terminable. He hied himself away over the hills 
to his camp after dinner, halted to reconnoiter 
Hazel's home on the way, took a look around the 
works and at his men, now lounging under the pines, 
smoking or asleep, returned and wrote a lengthy 
letter to his partner, also one to his worthy aunt; 
and then after the manner of all lovers, hastened to 
the home of his charmer as early that evening as he 
dared. 

His reception was in line with his feelings, for 
that occult little lady, conscious that she owed him 
quite a debt of gratitude for all he had done, meant 
to be charming and favor him with an enjoyable 
evening; also realizing that her pique ovr tlij deed 
matter had been largely imaginary. He found a 
bright fire adding cheer to the soft-shaded, lamp-lit 
parlor, a portion of his gift of roses conspicuous 
upon the center-table, one half-open one in her 
glossy crown of braided hair, and lierself in rose- 
tmlcd gown adding a smiling wekome. And just 



m' 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 437 

now after the usual greetings and when both were 
seated on opposite sides of the fire, she seemed to 
him the most exquisitely beautiful little lady in all 
the wide world! While she — well, just then it 
seemed that he made her parlor seem smaller! 

For a mail of his physique, sturdy and forceful, 
always commanded her respect. 

"I thank you most gratefully for the beautiful 
rc■,•.^ I found awaiting me last evening," she said 
first of all, " and they were such a surprise." 

" I'm glad they came on time," Stacy returned, 
smiling; " also that you were thouglitful enough to 
add charm to the church by a part of them. And 
by the way," wishing to check further allusion to 
his gift, " where did you find, or who is the author 
of that solo you rendered so charmingly? It is a 
gem and new to me. It just lifted me right into the 
pearly city we all hope to reach." 

"Oh. that 'Beautiful Land on High'?" smiled 
Hazel. "Its author is a Mrs. A. H. Tay.ur, and 
it is my favorite. It carries just the mood I love 
best in church music, faith and licipe combined, with- 
out the minor funereal tone I so dislike." 

" It certainly carried me where I heard angels' 
wings rustling and saw them smiling." returned 
Stacy. " I shall expect it ne.\t Sunday again." 

" Becoming converted, are you ? " iiucried she 



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archly. "Mr. Upson will be delighted. Shall I 
speak to him?" 

" Yes, if you like, and tell him if you can be per- 
suaded to sing all the time, I will join his church at 
once." 

" And he have no voice? No chance to preach? 
That would break his heart. He believes his ser- 
mons are all saving grace, especially those upon his 
favorite theme: the doom of all sinners. You don't 
admire such, I once heard you assert," 

" No," responded Stacy bluntly, " I do not. 
Brimstone Corner is out of date now. Hope and 
Faith are all right and lovely, but the theory of a 
God who would punish eternally is an outrage 
upon the highest conceptions of Him I But pardon 
me, religious discussions should be tabooed outside 
of a pulpit. We once came near a quarrel upon 
that subject. I'd rather hear you sing." 

" Then you consider women should be merely 
entertaining." smiling suavely. " Not have opin- 
ions, I infer? " 

" Hardly that. I believe they should be enter- 
taining and always charming, if possible. But an 
acrid discussion upon religious opinions is both 
frtile and unwise. It is a case of every one liaving 
a right to his own opinion so long as it agrees with 
ours. Otherwise not." 




THE CASTLK BUILDERS 



43'^ 



"To agree not to disagree. look pleasant, smile 
and sing, but have no .ipiniuns is our pruper rule, 
you think? To be a nin-Ii of concessiim? " 

"On the subject of nllgion, yes; on all others, 
no," he reliirneil as suavely. " A lady wlm has no 
opinion is usually a bore. I wai t tiaiii to 'ive nie 
battle on any ami all topics except religion." 

"And why not that?" she persisted. 'Why 
shouldn't we discuss that?" 

" Simply because it' a personal o nviction. a 
matter of blind faith upon hich arguments are 
wa.ii'd. I do not apply that to you fair ones espe- 
cially. I mean among mei aKo. 

" ^ ou spoke yesterday about pe..|,lc borinp vou 
so eas ,-," he added after a im inent's interim, and 
smiling. " I sliuiild h.-i . to do so. I certaiiilx wish 
to be entertaining, yet from what you sai.l I feel I, 
too, ma> become wearisome as soon as you know me 
better." 

"Possibly," she answered with perfect catidor, 
"but I hope not. It's the bane of my life to feel 
as I said. I hate to (l< so. I'd far rather like 
everybody, enjoy c'crything they said, hut I cannot. 
I never should liave admitted wha- I did, however 
Please forget it. To blurt out m> own npinion is 
one of my serious failings, and loses me friends." 
" It is apt to antagonize thcni, as I have found 



MOOCOPY KSOIUTION TEST CHADT 

(ANSI and ISO TEST CHART No 21 




^ /APPLIED IIVMGE 



165i East Moin Sire 






440 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 





myself. But you haven't answered my question. 
How can I avoid boring you as so many do? " 

"You can't, if you ever should" — almost defi- 
antly. " No one can. It's fate, that is all." 

" Or affinity ? " he interrupted. 

" No, I do not believe in affinity — in no way, 
shape or manner," flushing slightly. " I positively 
abominate that word or its significance. No two 
people ever were created for one another! If they 
meet and agree or get along peaceably they are 
fortunate, and it is usually due to mutual effort to 
that end." 

As this assertion, so near his own opinion, needed 
no response, Stacy made none, but glanced at the 
fire while his thoughts reverted to another one of 
driftwood a few weeks previous and how he lay be- 
side it in surly meditation. 

"A penny for your thoughts?" Hazel queried 
curiously, and watching him. " Where are you 
now?" 

" Do you want to know the truth? " glancing at 
her again and smiling. " Well, I was back beside 
that campfire on the beach four weeks ago, no, five, 
and recalling how hurt I felt over your coldness." 

" I'm sorry," in cooing tone, " but you can't 
blame me now? And — and I've tried to make 
amends, haven't I ? Please forget it 1 " 




THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



441 



" Retrospection of any mood is a waste of time 
I find," asserted Stacy. " We cannot live a day, an 
hour, even one inoment over again. 

" There is something else comes to me, also," 
he continued, ignoring the other matter. " Your 
father's romantic notion, and how he enjoys such 
outings, like an enthusiastic boy. It's wonderful 
in a man of his age, and I love him for it. And 
what an almost pathetic wish of his yesterday to 
go there and live alone summers, just to hear the 
ocean's lullaby at night, and see it close by every 
morning. Do you ever feel that way ? " 

" Sometimes, quite often, in fact," she returned 
dreamily, now down beside the sea herself. " Only, 
the ocean's voice and a lonely, wave-washed shore 
sadden me inexpressibly. It moves me to tears 
sometimes when I sit beside it alone. To pass one 
night there without company, no, thank you ! Not 
for me! 

" Its mood is grand, uplifting, and dwarfs all 
petty cares, however," she added with more elation, 
" makes me forget myself entirely." 

And just then, as if the coincidence had been 
planned, the tall clock began chiming ten and Aunt 
Sally entered, bearing a tray of refreshments, said 
" Good evening, sir " to Stacy, placed the tray upon 
a small table and left the room. After this tete-a- 



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442 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



tetc lunch had been enjoyed by him he needs must, 
as he did, persuade Hazel to favor him with her 
auto-harp ; next, and as a Sunday evening finale, to 
sing " There is a Beautiful Land on High " again. 
And then he rose to go. 

And novir came a queer little, half-coquettish in- 
quiry from Hazel : " Do you think I am combative 
in conversation, and disposed to argue," she asked 
smilingly, " strong-minded, in fact ? " 

" Oh, no, no, nothing of the sort," assuringly. 
" I like an argument, not a ' mush of concession.' 
Why do you ask ? " 

" Because of what you said about religion, and 
not to discuss it. I believe you are right in that. 
I hope you do not class me as strong-minded, how- 
ever." 

" Why, bless your dear heart, no, certainly not," 
he reiterated boldly. " You couldn't be anything 
but sweet and charming if you tried. And now 
with thanks for this delightful evening, when may 
I have another ? " 

" Any time you want an argument upon an) sub- 
ject except religion," smiling archly. " As father 
says, our latchstring is always out." 

More than that, and as if to send him away 
happy, she followed him to the porch and stood to 
comment upon the cool, crisp evening, and how sug- 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



443 



gestive of coming winter the dry, rustling leaves 
were. 

" Remember," he said as a final word, " you are 
to visit me and my camp next Saturday. And why 
can't we take a drive in the afternoon? You make 
your official visit in the morning and we go driv- 
ing in the afternoon? As I am to become a tem- 
porary resident here, I'd like to explore my sur- 
roundings. 

" Bless her dear little heart, she can be winsome 
if she tries," he assured himself, now striding away, 
unconscious his feet touched the earth. " Also 
saucy, aggravating, captivating, argumentative, and 
piquant, all in one ! I'm a goner, though, and it's 
yes or no some day." 



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CHAPTER XXXVI 

ADET/»- ED courtship would be a mo- 
notonous recital, and that of the elusive 
Hazel and imperious, self-reliant Stacy 
more so, for there was no opposition. Her father, 
in spite of his optimistic faith in the honesty and 
goodness of all humanity, was yet shrewd enough 
to measure Stacy's attributes and see his many ex- 
cellent qualities. He also knew that the best that 
could happen to his well beloved " girlie " was to 
win a life protector, and he had faith that Stacy 
would prove such a one. As already disclosed, he 
had said and done all he could to bring them to- 
gether, and now as this result appeared probable, 
he was well content. 

Stacy, also, as Sam asserted at first, was 
" tendin' right to the gal " on .ill probable or oppor- 
tune occasions. When Weaiiesday evening came 
again, it found him in her quaint old parlor enjoy- 
ing the cigar she insisted that he smoke. The next 
inevitable Thursday evening prayer meeting, whose 
hymn-singing was under her direction, found him 
444 



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THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



445 



an attendant, and he walked proudly away with her 
as escort, followed by the envious glances of other 
girls, and the smiles, nods and " I told you so's " of 
all the old ladies. 

And this very fact, that Hazel, as she did now, 
accepted his proffered company home with a smil- 
ing nod, assured him that she was quite willing to 
have him recognized as her " beau." 

" We are marked as keeping company now," he 
said to her on this occasion as they walked away; 
"do you care?" 

" No, I am not any more ashamed of it than 
you are," she returned facetiously, "and really it 
is very nice of you, for it has been a lonely walk 
home for me." 

When Saturday came — and fortunate for both, 
a warm and pleasant one — Hazel with four of her 
girl friends and her father for escort, paid their 
promised visit to Stacy's camp to see how fast his 
work was progressing. That was of keen and 
especial interest to Hazel, for all around and out 
in the morass of Bear Hole Swamp, axes were ring- 
ing, trees crashing as they fell, while nearer to then;, 
below — in fact — came the sharp click of stone 
masons' hammers and chisels squaring stones, the 
creak of a derrick swinging them into place, and the 
shouts of men driving oxen. The long, narrow, ten- 



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446 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



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foot-high barracks which its double row of cot beds, 
enough for the hundred men, was next inspected, 
also the cooking- and dining-rooms under the same 
tarred-paper roof, and last of all, Stacy's office, a 
six-foot-square shanty at one corner of this. 

" It's quite a contract to feed so many men, and 
keep them working effectively," he said to the girls 
after they had romped about and exrlitmed over 
everything, girl-like; "and evenings here are quite 
picturesque with a dozen campfires going undor the 
pine trees, and men lounging and smoking around 
them. We have music, too," he added, smiling at 
Hazel, " of a sort, at lease, for two or three play 
banjoes, there are a couple of accordions, several 
mojth organs, and one old fello' nlays the fiddle. 
An incongruous medley of instru lents, yet not so 
bad either,, with firelight and canopy of pines to add 
romance. There are several fairly good singers 
in the bunch, two darkies especially, and some 
evening I'd like to bring you girls over to hear and 
see the fun, or usual concert, unbeknown to them." 

The afternoon drive in Sam's best, in fact, the 
only modern top buggy in Oakdale, was most en- 
joyable to Stacy, however, for now he had the 
charming Hazel all to himself. They first drove 
to the shore, reaching ;t by a mere path through the 
bordering scrub oaks, then as the tide was out, 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



447 



trotting upon the hard sand for a five-mile stretcli 
and close to the gentle wave-wash, returning 
through a long and winding, woods-uordered, 
seldom-traveled road. 

" It's woods, woods everywhere," Stacy re- 
marked, after an hour of this, " and Oakdale is the 
most hid-away village I ever found. For that rea- 
son, it is charming in summer. My plans, and the 
possible influx of new people, will spoil it," he con- 
tinued regretfully, " spoil it for all time. Spoil 
that cozy little harbor where no one goes except 
your father, spoil the pretty beach where we 
camped, the long sand spit in front of his fish 
house, and Oakdale with its village green, its restful 
quietude; its two churches and your brown school- 
house will be no more. You will be sorry, won't 
you, Hazel ? " he queried, thus addressing her for 
the first time. " Sorry I ever came to Oakdale, 
won't you ? " 

" For that reason, yes, in a way," she answered 
frankly, " and yet it can't be helpttl. If you hadn't 
ccme to upset our sleepy town, someone else would 
— in time, I presume. And ther " — after a 
pause — " I don't believe I have quite appreciated 
Oakdale's charm until now that you say it must be 
spoiled. A case of how blessings brighten as they 
take their flight. To me, always living here. 






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THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



it has seemed lonesome and humdrum. But y 
— you need not upset us unless you insist," she 
added, glancing curiously al him ; " you can build 
your dam ai.J power house, we shall have a pretty 
lake in place of that swamp, and you can let it 
go at that, can't you? " 

" Of course, and would you like *o have me? " 

" Perhaps, and perhaps not," she rejoined 
evasively. " In fact, I've not understood just what 
you really expected tn do, only wnat father said 
might happen, .hops built, and more people come 
here to live, and work in them." 

And then to interest and enlighten his charmer, 
Stacy began and built his air-castle city over again. 

" It looks pretty — in the air," she responded, 
smiling, after his city was thus built and trolley 
cars running, " and is probably a creditable ambi- 
tion on your part. But, jnd you must excuse me, 
I don't believe you will live long enough to see it. 
I hope "ou may, however. Your heart seems set 
upon It." 

" A case of aiming at a star and hitting a sheep 
barn," laughed 5tacy, rather pleased at her frank- 
nes.?. " But I shall hope to interest you in time, 
shall krep on trying, anyhow," and then he chir- 
ruped to the horse and drove on. 

It was just sunset when they emerged from the 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



449 



woods on a hilltop overlooking Oakdale. To the 
left was the opening vista of the V-shaped valley 
ending at the border-ng ocean. Jus' below was 
Hazel's home, peeping out from a tliicket of yel- 
low and scarlet foliage; to the right the village 
group of houses, hotel and two churches arou.id an 
open green, and across this vale were < nclosing hills 
ablaze witli autumn color. 

Somehow, too, just now as Stacy halted his horse 
to survey this panorama, Hazel's half-hearted ap- 
proval of iiis plan recurred to him. Life here was 
peaceful to her as to the rest. They were alt, as 
U.icle Asa had asserted, neither rich nor poor, hut 
content, which meant more. And why spoil this 
peacefrl life, why upjct this hamlet by the build- 
ing of shops and inducing an alien population to 
come and crowd themselves into it? He did not 
need the money he might make by this innovation? 
His buainess in Albion was prospering? Why not 
abandon his air castle and save Oakdale for a sum- 
mer home for Hazel and himself — if he won her? 

" What you said or didn't say has made me 
almost sorry I've planned to build a city here," h.* 
said, glancing at her. "And V^e half a notion to 
let it drop. Would you advise it, or rather do you 
wish I would? " 

" Why, that is a serious qi estion." she returned, 



450 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



m 






flushing at the consciousness of how important her 
own opinions were becoming lo him. " I don't like 
what they call factory towns, made up of poor mill 
operatives, and if you plan to make this such a one 
— well, I wi;h you wouldn't do it." 

" I don't plan for that," an.xiously, " not a cotton- 
mill town. Only to induce other industries, those 
that employ higher-priced labor, to locate here, and 
also give employment to Oakdalc people." 

"But you can't pick and choose, can you? If 
someone wants to build a cotton mill here, he can, 
can't he ? " 

"Why, yes — if we rent the power, of course. 
Otherwise not." 

" And can you dictate that ? " 

" I shall," he returned forcibly, " unless I aban- 
don the plan entirely to — to please you." 

And just then he came near adding what would 
have meant a proposal of marriagf 

" Well, we must be going on, o. you will be late 
home to supper," he continued h;irriedly, with a 
toss of the reins, and " Go on," to Sam's sedate 
nag. 

A sudden heart-leap came to Hazel also at this 
moment, for she, keen to read others' moods and 
thoughts, understood his mood perfectly now, and 



I f 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



45 « 



saw that in the near future she m. ..t give tlie " yes " 
or " no " thit was to domi ate her future lift. 

But was she willing to make it "' yes " ? 

And just then as they turned down ihe road to 
her home, her father's almost pathetic assertion of 
how lie wished to pass his remaining years re- 
curred to her. .Mso her own fii j resolve to abide 
by him and care for him as long as he lived. A 
queer, and quite new thrill came as Stacy practically 
lifted her out of the riage, and his " Good-bye, 
Hazel, and thank you, too," in response to her 
" Thank you for the ride," also set her hcrt 
a-flutter. 

A little sense of guilt followed his new wave 
of feeling when she found her her had been 
waiting supper for her almost an hour, and his 
smiling, " Wal, I hope you've had a pleasant time 
this anernoon, girlie; these days won't last Ion 
only ad Jed to it. And then it occurred to her tl 
she had entirely forgotten him, home, her school 
and all else in her life, during the five hours she 
had been driving with Stacy ! 

" I have enjoyed my ride very much," siie as- 
sured him as they sat down to supper. " We drove 
tlie whole length of Lop? Beach, up to the Barre 
road, and all around Oakdale. He is a very in- 



1' 



4S2 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 





tcresting talker, and do you know, father, he is 
almost sorry he has planned to build shops here 
and, as I think, spoil Oakdale." 

" But think o' the money he'll make out on't," 
rejoined her father, smiling at her naive admission, 
" 'n' 'twon't spile Oakdale, either; jist give folks a 
chance to make a better livin' than farmin'." 

She was unusually tender to her father that 
evening, .;Iso. Brought him his slippers, smoking 
jacket, and even cleaned out and filled his cob pipe 
for him in the sitting-room, then brought her auto- 
harp and played all his favorite airs. 

A few days later, in fact, the next Wednesday 
evening when Stacy called, he suggested, as the 
moon was now favorable, that they make a visit to 
his camp. 

" We can keep out of sight of the men," he as- 
sured her. " They will all be gathered around the 
fires, and from a vantage point I know up on one 
of the hills we can look down and see or hear 
what is doing." And glad so to reconnoiter this 
crew of strange men, Hazel put on a wrap, took 
Stacy's arm, and they followed the identical up- 
ward path that had brought him to her five months 
previous ! 

" Here," he said, soon halting under a big pine 



i]l.^ii:!i 



K*',.'"T-^'^. 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 453 

beside the path, " is where I first heard your auto- 
harp the day I found you — and thought it spirit 
music. I'm going to cut our initials in this tree 
some day when I find time, just to commemorate 
that fortunate fact," then continued as if her con- 
sent were assured. 

" How Hke fairyland and what a bewitchment 
moonlight falling through pine trees has," he added, 
as they kept on along the velvety path, " and how 
pretty. A sort of weird mysticism in it, ethereal 
and spectral in a way, but fascinating." 

" I wouldn't care to come up here alone," re- 
joined Hazel, clinging to his arm a little closer. 
" I'd imagine ghosts might be lurking here in the 
shadows." 

" Do you believe in them ? " queried Stacy 
curiously. 

" Why no-o, not exactly," hesitating a little, 
" and yet, believing in a future existence as I do 
— well, it's not easy to separate faith in that from 
ghost legends or the fact so many do believe in 
them. Sensible and intelligent people, too, like our 
Aunt Sally. She is positive that they are seen occa- 
sionally. What is your opinion ? " 

" All imagination or superstition," he rejoined 
briskly, " and a relic of bygone times when people 



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I* 



454 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



believed in incantations, sorcery, witchcraft, and all 
that sort of thing. It's what we can't see in this 
world that scares us — our imagination." 

But a queer medley of sound, the plink of a banjo, 
the click of bones, and a scuffle of feet dancing upon 
a board, that now came to them adown the somber, 
moonlit, pine-filled gorge, ended this discussion, and 
soon, piloted by Stacy to his vantage point above 
them, Hazel saw a red-shirted negro dancing upon 
a square of board in front of a fire, while another 
seated on a rock picked and swept his fingers 
across a banjo with all the force and abandon of his 
race. A white boy was shaking a pair of castanets, 
two score men squatting around were clapping 
hands in time, while grouped about these in all 
positions was the camp's entire crew. A shout and 
hand-clapping rewarded the dancer when he 
stopped, a white man took his place, and so for 
a half hour this unique exhibition went on. Next, 
after a brief interim of mingled voices and laughter 
too distant to be heard by the listening ones, the 
banjoist swept his fingers across the strings and 
Hazel heard what to her was a rare treat, that old 
plantation hymn, " Roll, Jordan Roll," sung as only 
a negro can sing it beside a campfire at night with 
fifty other voices joining in the chorus ! 




' 'J .; 

ill 

iili 



"•E""^.«'i» 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



455 



And how it swelled and rose and rolled up 
through the canopy of pine boughs ! How its wild 
and weird refrain filled tliat shadowy moonlit gorge, 
echoed across from hill to hill, pulsed and throbbed 
in the still night air with all the hope and cry for 
help from a race of slaves that has made it famous ! 

After that came another of similar tenor, " Good 
Lord, Remember Me," and then as if love were 
the first, last, and best emotion of all, this big red- 
shirted artist rendered two of Hazel's favorites 
— " My Gum Tree Canoe " and " Suwanee 
River." 

" I've tried to feel and throw the real spirit of 
those songs into thrm," she whispered to Stacy, 
when a pause came, " but I can't sing them as he 
does." 

And then presto — and bearing both listeners 
back to their first moment of meeting — up came 
that sweetest of all plantation songs, " Don't You 
Hear Dem Bells A-Ringing?" 

And that, now sung in softly-modulated tenor 
voice, almost carried the charm of Hazel's auto- 
harp in its bell-like chords, and soft tinkling notes 
wafted up through the pine-bough canopy and vi- 
brating with all the pathos of distant bells at 
eventide ! 



456 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



song is exquisite," added 
" how I wish I could equal 



"Oh, but that bell 
Hazel at its conclusion ; 
it!" 

" Pshaw, he doesn't compare with you one mo- 
ment for fine shading of tone," Stacy assured her, 
as might be expected, "and remember that time, 
place, and distance lend charm. I knew the sing- 
ing would sound better up here, and so brought 
you here. We will come again some evening and 
bring your father. I'd like him to hear them." 
Then as it was getting late, he lifted his companion 
as if he owned her, tucked one hand around his 
arm, and side by side they followed the moon- 
checked, winding, velvety path down the canopied 
gorge, as if it led into a new and ethereal world, as 
indeed it did for them! 

And it must be said, Stacy, cool atid business^ 
like as a rule, bad hard work not to halt right be- 
neath the fragrant pines and risk all with one plea 
for this matchless maid clinging to his arm ! 



M 



f4 



.3»'''=»^ 



CHAPTER XXXVII 

FOR two months now, or until the maples en- 
closing Hazel's home were bare of foliage, 
Stacy scarcely thought of anything except 
her, or to direct his men and push the work forward 
as fast as possible, as a minor issue. Curtis North, 
Otero, and the outcome of Harkins's raid in those 
two swindlers' latest field of operation, had also 
partially faded from his memory when one evening, 
returning from the home of his charmer, he found 
a tetter from H .kins awaiting him at the hotel. 

" I have delayed writing you until I could re- 
port some definite action by our law mill," ne 
wrote, " and what was likely to be done with your 
friend 'Whiskers.' He, as you may not know, 
brought one lawyer along with him from New 
York, who, of course, has only a limited standing 
in our courts. He has also engaged two of our 
best ones to defend himself and Otero, and with 
ample funds, as it appears, he is prepared to give 
us a long legal fight and will probably do so. We 
have him in jail, however, and all our prosecuting 
457 



t1 



!! 



458 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



attorney has been able to do so far is to keep him 
from obtaining bonds and hbcrty. In this con- 
nection, also, I recall your rather sarcastic criticism 
of lawyers in general, and inasmuch as two of our 
leading ones are now taking this d — swindler and 
murderer's money in his defi ise and to defeat 
justice if they can, i must admit your sneers were 
justified. I have ' Bricktop ' here safe in limbo, 
though at our preliminary hearing she proved a 
poor witness for us, and swore both the Swedes 
came to her cabin drunk, that the one who was 
found dead fell from the top of a bddcr leading 
up to the loft of her cabin, also that neither Curtis 
North nor Otero were in it at thf time. She admits 
being partially drunk when the accident happ-ned, 
and swears she fell asleep after it and left the two 
miners there, drunk, as she supposed. What com- 
plicated our case the most is the fact that Tygson 
has vanished. He came on with us to Rawhide, 
promised me on his honor he would appear as wit- 
ness when wanted, went up to Humpback, and two 
days later bought a horse, packed up a camp out- 
fit, and left for parts unknown. I have since 
learned he obtained a bill of exchange for twenty- 
five thousand dollars at our bank (the foxy cuss), 
and sent it to a sister of his in Sweden. I imagined 
North advised him to do this on the way here, with 



1 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



459 



threat of retribution if lie appeared against him 
in court. I am now sorry we obtained his money 
for him the way we did. 

" I had some fun with my two birds on the way, 
for the nearer we got to Rawhide, the more scared 
they became, and just before we readied the Junc- 
tion, and as a final bid for liberty. North oflercd 
me an even hundred thousand to get off and leave 
him on the train. He was like a wet rag going 
up to Rawhide and scared silly besides. I had the 
most fun when we got there, for I had wired one 
of my friends to meet us with a few of the boys 
and make believe they meant to lynch Korth. It 
all went off per order, rope ready — two, in fact, 
and a hundred men yelling ' Hang hini, string 'em 
both up,' as we hustled them into a carriage, with 
me flourishing a gun and threatening to shoot! 

" And ' His Whiskers ' still believes my defiance 
of the mob was all that saved his neck! Of the 
two, Otero showed the most sand, in fact, damned 
North with the choicest collection of Mexican cuss 
words on top of ours, I e\er heard, for being such 
a coward. I think the outcome will be that Otero 
will turn State's evidence to save his own neck, and 
so we may get a second-degree verdict ot; North. 
I can't hope for more with such a liar as ' Brick- 
top ' for sole witness for us, and probably a fat 



46o 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



rake-off from North for lier if he saves his neck. 
We are, as you see, up against a tough proposition, 
plenty of money, two sharp lawyers meaning to get 
the most of it, anil our only witness one who can 
beat the devil at lyii.g. Will keep yon posted, how- 
ever. With best wishes to your funny old farmer 
friend, Uncle Asa, and the lady, I remain 

" Yours fraternally, 

" Jim." 



i 


|: 


i 

5 


■ ' 


W- ^1 






i 

■a 


Hi 






' ■■■< ':^ 


^H 't 


r t i ',•• 


■ 


III: 


if 



"Well, it's just about as I expected," declared 
Stacy in disgus., after perusing this lengthy mis- 
sive, " and Curt.s North, one of the most dangerous 
villains who ever caught the unwary, will probably 
continue at that game in spite of all law ! He has 
the price, two hungry attorneys like sharks after 
it, and * ley won't let up as lor.g as his money la^Us ! 
Talk about the blind Goddess of Justice and her 
pair of scales! She ought to be portrayed as 
perched upon a pile of gold bags, holding one aloft, 
and laughing at a cordon of lawyers grouped about 
on their knees! " 

When Uncle Asa read this missive, as he did next 
day when he, as so often now, visited Stacy at the 
camp, his comment may also well be quoted. 

" Looks like the critter 'ud go scot free, 'n' back 
to skinnin' farmers 'n' fools agin, don't it?" he 



THE CASTLE BUILDEKS 46' 

asserted after so doing, " 'n' I ain't a mite sprised. 
Jist so long's a villain's got money, jist so long'll 
them sharks o' lawyers keep arter it, makin' 'yiicve 
defend him till it's gone. Then "- can go hang for 
all they ca-e. Fact is, 'cordin' to my notion, most 
o' the laws is made by lawyers on purpose so they 
can jiiir '^ with 'em like stackin' cards, 'n' so git 
fees. I ve bin in court jist to look on 'n' hear 
them green-bag fellers wrangle 'n' sass one 'nother. 
But the case is. one o' now ye see it, now ye 
don't, to the sucker who's payin' the bill. All he 
kin tell is that it's inter one o' tnem green-bags with 
his money, 'n' 'now ye don't see if artor that! 
Never the money, anyhow ! 

"'N' I've alius figgered the judge were sorter 
half cahoots with them sharks in the game like- 
wise. They war lawyi rs, o' course, to start on, 'n' 
birds of a feather alius flock together. 

"Curis, curis, Stacy," he added meditatively, 
" how one half o' the world lives on t'other half 
most o' the time. That sharper come along 'n' 
skinned me, you come along 'n' fined him si.x thou- 
sand to lam him a lesson, the lawyers ketched him 
next, 'n' who'll ketch the lawyers nobody ^knows. 
The'divil himself is the only one sharp 'nuff, I 

cal'late." 

Be that as it may be, however, the two (or rather 



I; 





463 



THK CASTLr; nUILDRRS 



two ami one-half, (or that was all the New York 
lawyer counted in the game) who had taken Cnrtis 
North in hand — also his money — so twisted and 
perverted all evidence that they came near proving 
' Bricktop ' to have been a sort of innocent Red Rid- 
ing Hood, who, with her equally chaste lady friend, 
had been lured to Ra'vhide by the twi wedish 
wolves in miner's garb and drugged to accomplish 
their ruin; that Curtis North was an honorable 
business nan who had sought to rescue tl m from 
the hands of two drunken miners. They obtained 
postponements and re-hearings on the score of new 
evidence discovered, and finally introduced the 
novel plea that Tygson, aided and abetted by the 
other woman in the case, had lured his so-called 
friend, Johnson, to ' Bricktop's ' cabin, then 
drugged, robbed, and murdered him. In proof of 
that, he had now left the country. Curtis North 
ilso swore that Harkins had first e.xtorted "hirty 
thousand dollrrs from him as hush money, which he 
linnded to Tygson, then arrested him as a bluflf 
game, and all that saved Harkins rom impeach- 
ment and trial was '-is record for unswerving 
I mesty and fcarles? discharge of his duty. The 
case was kept in court for over two years by 
\':irious legal subterfuges, until Harkins and the 
prosecuting attorney, fearing that the arch-crimina!, 



THE CASTl.K IIUII.DKKS 463 

Curtis North, woul.l escape all pimisliim-nt, .Iccidcd 
to promise immmiity K. Otero for turning States 
cvi.lcce, which he did with all haste. As proof 
conclusive of wlua a farce and travesty on justice 
some criminal trials are, he swore, and it was ad- 
mitted as evidence, that Curtis Nori'i had exercised 
a hypnotic influence over him for ars. compelled 
him to Ro to this woman's cabin apainst his will, 
Had sent him out to buy more liquor and a sleep- 
ing powder to put in it, an<l that, drunk himself, 
he saw North deal the fatal blow to Johnson and 
rob him. As corrobirative proof of this, lie also 
swore to the fact that North had given him money 
and sent him to Oakdale to buy Hear Hole Swamp, 
as well as other malign and evil dee.ls. In rebuttal 
North-s lawyers proved conclusively that Otero had 
been a professional gambler and blackleg, horse and 
cattle thief, and had served time for one of the 
latter crira-s, and finally obtained a m mslauguter 
verdict for their client with extenuating circu, • 
starccs and a minimum sentence of six yoars in 

prison for it. 

Also as every one knew full well, they ob- 
tained all the money he had brought to Rawhide 

with liini ! 

" P.ccorva," said tlie ivrenressible McCuc to Har- 
kins when the verdict was announced iukI North 



ffXTVi rmi '.V .mrvms^ at.. 



464 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



lilt: 




taken away to serve it, " thar do be only wan way 
to sarve the loikes o' him an' thot tlie ould one. 
Jist a few o' the b'ys thot know their business, a 
rope 'n' convanient limb, 'n' thar ye be! An' thin 
look at the fun we missed seein' him sthrung up, 
wid dhrinks all round after thot, an' iverybody 
thratin', an' maybe a foine fight fer a windup. 
Now 'tis to spind two years provin' everybody is a 
liar till we forgit what the mon done an' wimmin 
sind riowers to him in the jail. Ochone, but the 
toimes has all gone wrong, an' dom dull now, dom 
dull!" 

Something else, also, of pertinent interest was 
learned by Stacy soon after this on one of his occa- 
sional visits to Barre and from Davis, cliairman of 
that city's Improvement Committee. 

" Your gay and festive friend, J. Smith Alton, 
left town between two days last week. Brother 
Whipple," he said to him smilingly. " Also left 
quite a few mourning for their bills as well. He 
was defeated for councilman by a landslide at our 
October election, notified if he didn't resign from 
my committee, charges of betraying a trust and 
bribery would be preferred against him, and he de- 
cided the best way was to vamoose, and did so. He 
took good care to borrow all he possibly could be- 
fore departing, and those victims are all who regret 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



465 



his departure. I have heard he was seen in New 
York recently with a very handsome black-eyed 
lady." 

" Miss Carmen, I presume," smiled Stacy, well 
pleased, " and probably hunting for her friend 
Otero and the mate to a diamond bracelet she was 
expecting for assistance in doing me. She won't 
get it, however, for this Otero has troubles of his 
own just now," and then after showing Davis the 
letter from Harkins, Stacy told him the whole story 
from his meeting Uncle Asa to the final scene in 
New York. 

" What an all-around, double-distilled, dyed-in- 
the-wool fool a man is to get bedeviled by a woman 
like this Carmen," he declared, after the long story 
was ended. " A spider spinning a web for unsus- 
pecting flies is an honest fellow in comparison, for 
such as she weaves one over the most invincible and 
compelling of all human impulses, that once aroused 
leave the victim no chance whatever except to be 
robbed, gladly. Even thankful to be so duped, 
fleeced, and finally dishonored as this fellow, Alton, 
has been. The one factor and feature of this mat- 
ter most exasperating to me, or rather one that 
wakens my contempt for man's frailty most, is the 
fact that otherwise level-headed and sensible busi- 
ness men can, and are continually being duped and 



I'f-, 

1,1 : 



< -if 



466 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



preyed upon by Carmens of every age, shape, color, 
or previous condition of depravity. 

" I do not wonder cynics sneer and savants jeer! 
Puck ought to have said, ' What fools these men 
can be ! ' " 









CHAPTER XXXVIII 

FOR almost two months now, or since that 
evening of mutual confession, and oblitera- 
tion of Stacy's sulks, he had not only been 
paying most assiduous court to Hazel, but dwelling 
in the seventh heaven of illusions. Each Sunday 
found him at church, garbed spick and span as the 
best Albion tailor could make him, and rain or shine 
he was sure to be beside her cheerful fire those 
evenings as well. When Thursday evening arrived, 
he was on hand to escort her home from that in- 
evitable prayer meeting, and to tuck her hand 
around his arm in the manner of proprietorship, 
then walk away as if he owned her! Mo. than 
that, and in spite of her warning that boredom 
might follow too intimate associ;i 'on, he dared that 
by presenting himself at the throne of her grace 
on other evenings as well. They went driving each 
Saturday afternoon, weather permitting, and a box 
of choice flowers and a five-pound one of candy 
came up from Albion alternately on those days un- 
til, as might be expected, all Oakdale felt positive 
467 



I* ill 



468 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 




■»i ( 



His 



that they were engaged lovers, and spoke accord- 
ingly. 

And yet, after those weeks, delightful to both, 
they were not, neither had the word, love, been 
'even hinted at, except by insinuation from Stacy. 
They talked much, however, discussing all proper 
subjects in fearless manner, occasionally disagree- 
ing, for Hazel had a mind of her own and was not 
afraid to express it ; and Stacy, while not dogmatic, 
was equally fearless of opinion. More than that, 
he was keen enough to realize that Hazel enjoyed 
a contest of argument, with due deference to her 
conviction, of course, and that concession, or a 
" yes, yes " to all her opinions, would inevitably 
mean her feeling bored, and the end of her interest 
in him. He even — so anxious was he to entertain 
and interest her — sent for the complete works of 
her favorite author, Emerson, and between times 
or calls read assiduously. And they, as they could 
not fail to do, soon opened his eyes to a new horizon 
and a broader, nobler and more spiritual meaning to 
life and its moods and impulses. 

For occult reasons, also, he made no mention of 
this study — and it is a study to all who read Emer- 
son understandingly — until he had grasped what 
may be called the outlines of this philosopher's mind 
— his analysis of the why and wherefore of hu- 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



469 



man emotions and actions, their origin, outcome, 
and final purpose in life. Then Stacy, thus armed 
and equipped and anticipating a delightful exchange 
with Hazel, broached the subject of Emerson. 

" I've gone to the fountain source of your 
many pertinent epigrams and profound truths, 
Hazel," he said to her that evening, once more 
beside her cheerful fire, " and I've had a treat ; also a 
struggle, for Emerson is a deeper thinker than I 
am accustomed to, and not easily understood." 

" I'm glad," she rejoined, her eyes a-twinkle and 
smiling, '" for now you can understand why I once 
admitted I was so easily bored by commonplace 
conversr.tion — personal history, gossip, and all that 
sort ct thing that so many indulge in. Which of 
his books have you been reading? " 

" Oh, his Essays, of course ; they came first, and 
do you know I read them, then his miscellaneous 
writings, next his poems, and returning to his Es- 
says, found I had not even grasped a tithe of their 
deep meaning. I've read the one I like best, ' Com- 
pensation,' over four times; 'Self-Reliance,' 
' Friendship,' ' Love,' and ' Spiritual Laws ' fvice 
each, and find I've not as yet more than skimmed 
them. He is a wonderful thinker, and in writing 
condenses more into fewer words than anyone else I 
ever read. To follow him understandingly, requires 



470 



THE CASTLE F 'TLDERS 



I 



the closest application. He is a mine of analytical 
wisdom. But ' Compensation ' is the gem of all hi.s 
writings, and as a guide to how to live and enjoy 
v.'hat is best in life it is worth more than all the ser- 
mons I c -er heard. I've had a treat, thanks to 
you." 

" ' Compensation ' is a classic," she rejoined, her 
eyes brimming with mischief. " But what induced 
you to delve into him? You whose leading ambi- 
tion was to build a big dam and transform sleepy 
old Oakdale into a city of spindles and mill opera- 
tives and make a lot of money! I am astonished! 
Why is this thus?" 

"Well, you are the first reason," he returned 
boldly. " You have been quoting him to confound 
me, anu did so most adroitly; routed me horse, foot, 
and dragoons, so to speak, so that I've been com- 
pelled to read Emerson in self-defense. Beyond 
that, and accepting one of your assertions literally, 
I've had cold chills lest I bored you." 

Then the elusive Hazel laughed right merrily. 

" Stealing my thunder, eh?" she ejaculated, sub- 
siding. " Robbing me of my trite axioms, thou 
brave knight? I am surprised! And so you have 
mastered Emerson to confound me in turn," she 
continued piquantly and resolving to catecliise her 
admirer. " If this be so, the class of one in ' Com- 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



471 



pensation ' will now take his place and recite. 
What is it the big trees seem to say to mere man 
coming out of the heated caucus ? " 

" ' Why so hot, my Httlc sir? ' " answ. ed Stacy 
smiling. " and that the affairs of men are but trifles 
in comparison with time and the growth of a vast 
forest. A petty diversion soon forgotten." 

" And have you learned the real inner reason why 
it is best to pay scot and lot as you go along? " she 
continued, watching him. " Why the borrower 
runs into his own debt ? " 

" To pay all debts promptly means to escape all 
sense of obligation at once. To be able to look the 
'ifhole world in the face undaunted and say, ' Go, 
chase thyself,' if need be," laughed Stacy. 

" And can you do a wrong without suffering a 
wrong?" persisted Hazel. "Can you strike a 
we.iker one without the blow becoming a boomerang 
returning to smite you? " 

" No, never; nor dig a pit for thy fellow man, thy 
brother, without falling into it thyself with a dull 
thud, as Curtis North did," rejoined Stacy compla- 
cently. " The blow he aimed at your father, his 
robbery, returned to smite him tenfold. A 
boomerang of mighty force that divested him of 
fortune, swept him across a continent, and landed 
him behind prison bars." 




^rii. 



472 THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

" I see you have garnered and applied a few 
Emersonian truths," smiled Hazel admiringly; 
" not enough to deserve the laurel wreath, however. 
Can you as yet truthfully say that you distrust and 
fear all flattery ? That praise is dangerous and dis- 
torts your own perspective of yourself almost in- 
evitably ? " 

" I can't quite say that," admitted Stacy frankly. 
" I like to be well thought of — by you especially. 
Like to have those I care for like me, and show 
it in some manner. Not by word, however, by 
deed, rather, which is, after all, flattery of the most 
occult sort. In short, I am like most of humanity, 
one who prefers being appreciated, not misunder- 
stood. For instance, it is a satisfaction to me to 
feel your father believes in both my honesty and 
honor. Also that I have some common sense. Is 
that dangerous flattery, oh, sweet and fair teacher? " 
" Both adjectives are flattery to me," she asserted 
instantly, yet smiling. " I must allow I lile them, 
as you admit what you like. But that does not dis- 
prove Emerson's contention that all flattery is 
dangerous. I still insist and believe that it is." 

" In a way, yes, for we are never sure there isn't 
a sinister intent back of it. Some axe to grind. 
Won't you allow it from those you trust thor- 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



473 



oughly? Those you liave proved that you can 
trust?" 

" By deed and implication, yes, by word — well, 
I must say that I rebel at all words of praise ex- 
cept from one person, my father. Praise from him 
is very sweet, because I know it comes from his 
love, which is absolutely and entiiely unselfish. I 
feel I am a part of him in soul-life, anyway, as I 
must be." 

For one long moment Stacy's eyes rested upon 
the sweet, piquant face of Hazel with deep, tender 
admiration. He saw her now as never before, and 
that beyond or within a face and form so charming 
that all men must admire and want to praise, lay 
a soul, dauntless, clear-eyed, sincere, pure and 
truthful. He realized that she saw him as he was, 
with all his faults and foibles. Also recognized his 
honesty of purpose and sense of honor. In a way, 
as well, he saw, or was conscious that his own soul 
stood bared to her. That she had analyzed him by 
word and deed; that she, a metaphysical student, 
almost, in spite of her tender years, could read 
and measure his mind and moods as easily as her 
great mentor, Emerson, could those of all hu- 
manity. Beyond this, also, and more satisfying, 
came the instantaneous consciousness that her ac- 



4<l 



474 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



'X 

1; t- 



ceptancc of his company so often and in the face 
of all Oakdalc meant that sho was willing to do so. 
Meant that she cared not one whit what they said 
or thought about it. That she, high-spirited and 
proud beyond their possible conception, was yet 
willing to walk beside him in full view, willing to 
be seen, known and discussed as his almost daily 
companion and mate, as she had been now for 
months. And realizing all this as never before, 
almost was he now compelled to ask for final ac- 
ceptance and her promise to share his life for weal 
or woe, for joy or sorrow. 

"I often think," she then said, divining his 
thoughts, perhaps, and flushing at his ardent gaze, 
" how much I need my father's abiding love and 
faith, and how impossible for me to be happy with- 
out it. We have grown together, he and I, in soul- 
life and appreciation of Nature. He has read all 
my best books, too, just to keep pace with me in 
thought or study, I fancy. Sometimes we discuss 
them as you and I have Emerson, though seldom ; 
but better than that, and like a tonic to me, is his 
old-fashioned, homely way of hitting the nail on 
its head ; of uttering the truth and facts of the case 
in few words and to the point. He never bores me, 
seems to know just how I feel and think about all 
matters, and beyond that I am compelled to feel that 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 475 

his sole ambition in life is my own happiness. Of 
course, the inevitable comwnsttion comes in my 
feeling the same way towards him." 

" ' Two hermit souls,' " quoted Stacy again, and 
not at all jealous of it. "You certainly have 
' blazed your path where never highway ran ' for 
I never saw or knew of a father and daughter so 
devoted, so independent of the whole world, and 
so little in need of anything it can give. But — " 

" No, don't say it," she interrupted hastily, read- 
ing his thought, " for I know it all the time. How 
can I help it when I look at his wrinkh'l face? 
But that is of to-morrow, and to live one day at 
a time is our motto." Then, as if there could be 
but one outcome of this line of thought from Stacy, 
a proposal, which must be forestalled, she arose 
speedily and went to her piano. 

" I have a new song," she asserted, now hunt- 
ing for it, " and I'm going to inflict it upon you, 
willy-nilly. We have discussed metaphysics long 
enough." 

Then Stacy, quite at home here now, added two 
sticks of white birch wood to the fire, Ut a cigar 
with a shred of bark, crossed his legs and lay back 
in his armchair, content to enjoy what the gods 
had so far vouchsafed him, and quite sure the time 
would come when this rare and keen-witted maid 



u\ 



476 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



fif: 

I i. '.K 

J ■ ' 

04 i 



must turn to him for love and protection. And 
just now, also, while he blew smoke rings lazily and 
watched her, the growth of this now well-estab- 
lished bond passed in retrospection. He saw her 
once more, as at first, under the big pine, and leaping 
to her feet in sudden alarm at his appearance. 
Next, the first meal she had served him so graciously 
and with such tactful converse, her cool indifference 
in the strawberry field, how he had had to beg for an 
invitation to call, her continual distrust of him, and 
almost chilling neglect upon their first visit to the 
shore; and worse than that, her frosty demeanor 
all througli the camping-out episode, with only one 
utterance from her he cared to now recall. His 
fit of sulks came next, and how for three long weeks 
of evenings, he, though hungering for a sight of 
her sweet face, held himself aloof in sullen anger. 

And then the chance meeting on the highway, 
and how close he came to letting his pride continue 
its rule and perhaps part them forever, and how, 
step by step after that, they had drawn nearer to 
one another along the highway of life, until now, 
— oh, blessed consciousness — she was willing to 
walk beside him at all times and before the whole 
world ! 

But would she be willing so to continue all her 
life? To give herself to him, to have and to hold. 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



477 



to love and care for, all that Ion;' or slioit journey? 
He understood her better now. How self-reliant 
she was, how little of the personal, selfish side of 
human nature there was in her make-up, and how 
much of the spiritual, the noble, the altruistic at- 
tribute she had. She was like that rare flower, 
the edelweiss, growinjj .along the borders of per- 
petual snow, and as sweet and pure. She might 
accept the sunshine of love and protection, perhaps, 
but did not need it, for as she had just assured hiin, 
and truthfully, too, as he believed, she was con- 
tent to devote herself to her one best companion 
— her father. Stacy did not mean that she should, 
however, just now. He meant to beg for admit- 
tance into her empyrean realm, her kingdom along 
the snow line, and to that end and purpose, and for 
that consummation, all other plans of his must and 
should consiiire. Then, too, as nn added incentive, 
came her father's apparent wish for tiiat result, and 
his almost pathetic self-cfTacement in a hermit life 
down beside the lonely shore. 

And how could it all be brought about? How 
sever these two life-companions, so satisfied with 
one another? Would love and wifehood be suf- 
ficient for the azure-souled Hazel? Sufficient to 
satisfy and replace a kinship that had been hers 
since childhood? It seemed almost too much to 



li 




478 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



expect! In fact, that consciousness, that realiza- 
tion of how bound together these two were, had 
kept Stacy silent so long. Silent at least to the ex- 
tent of proposing what must mean a separation. 

And now, with the evening and fire both waning, 
and Hazel, beautiful as a painter's classic dream, 
sounding the chords of an old-time love song 
but a few feet away, Stacy was as far from it as he 
had been for months. 

He was in nowise afraid of her, or to put the 
question and win or lose all. Only — and now her 
own assertions of the dread of commonplaceness 
recurred to him — was he capable of assuming so 
great a charge, so delicate a task as being soul- 
mate for such as she ? They were both happy now, 
or content in a way. He with his air castle and 
ambition, she with her school for diversion, and 
home life and father for consolation. How would 
it be if he thrust himself into this? If they mar- 
ried and he transplanted her to Albion and social 
life there, as perforce he must, would that work 
out to her satisfaction and content? Could or 
would all he might do for her satisfy and make 
amends for tlie soul-stafif she had leaned upon so 
long — her father? 

" It is getting late and I must be going. Hazel," 
he said in his usual tone now, rising after his long 



wmm 



t • 4 



m 



m 



!P 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 479 

meditation, and she. as was usual now, helped him 
on with his coat and ont " .' tl.: door for him to de- 
part. 

" I've had a more t ;■■, onlin.-^.rii ' enjoyable even- 
ing. Hazel," he said, -..1111 i.-i-^'al tenderness this 
time, and pausing in the open door. " All evenings 
are charming with you, as you must know, this more 
than most, for I've obtained a glimpse into your 
inner soul-li fe. I — I wish you needed me as much 
as I do you." 

Then, as if this was meant to set her think- 
ing, he added a hasty " good night," and strode 

away. 

And then Hazel, quite conscious of what was in 
his heart, also with a sweet pain in her own, sat 
down beside the dying fire and stared into the 
faintly glowing embers. And how empty the room 
seemed just now, and how like " never — forever 
_ forever — never " sounded the tall clock's tick, 
mingling with the low murmur of the near-by brook 
outside, and the rustle of dead leaves in the night 

wind ! 

" I am doing wrong, very wrong," she said 
to herself ne.xt, leaning her face in one hand with 
elbow on chair arm, after five minutes of this soul 
communion. " He is getting more and more in love, 
and I am letting him. He came near proposing 




48o THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

to-night! It must not be! It must not be, with 
poor old poppy planning to live alone by the seal 
No, no, it must not be ! I cannot leave father as he 
will insist! I cannot!" 

And then so sharp a heart pang came in answer 
she had to bite her lips. 

For a very long half-hour more, she still sat there 
in silent communion with herself, her life — past, 
present, and probable future. She was barely con- 
scious of the clock's solemn tick, imagined she 
heard the low wave-wash on the lonely shore, and 
saw the white and brown rows of serrated stones 
on the hillside above the village. Life had come 
to a parting of the ways for her : one pointing to 
love and duty to her father, the other into an un- 
known realm with an almost soul-stranger. 

" No, no, no, I cannot," she said at last, rising 
to extinguish the light and retire, " and I shall not 
leave father ! " 



T?^ 



WW 



EW'Tiir'TTiniMi "iii'T 



CHAPTER XXXIX 

THERE are some days in good old New 
England that seem like a benediction, 
and such a one now ushered in Thanksgiv- 
ing to Oakdale. The distant sea undulating beneath 
a red sun was without a ripple, the sky a dome of 
ambient haze, the air soft and balmy, the hillsides 
still glowing with faint shades of scarlet here and 
there amid the brown, and the vista of valley 
opening to the sea, still green. The church bells, 
as always here on that day, called the faithful once 
more, and Hazel with them, to sing again a song of 
joy and thankfi ' ^ ■• while over at the camp, 
Stacy's men wer. /ing what to them was a 

glorious and satisfymg day of rest and sports, with 
a dinner of roast turkeys, geese, and ducks as extra 
treat provided by him. He also, quite content with 
himself and all else, the progress of his work, and 
his wooing of Hazel, more especially, walked home 
with her from church as usual, then partook of a 
most excellent dinner provided by Aunt Sally and 
served by Hazel, also seasoned by the flavor of 
Uncle Asa's wit and humor. Stories were told by 
481 



m^iMS.v1}93VXMWSJISib^yS/. 



!trj 



l-l 




482 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



both himself and that genial optimist, inchidins 
what he never tired of (or any of the party either), 
his experience in the sleeping car with snakes as a 
side feature, and how scared the porter was! And 
after that, when the sun was well down, Stacy 
made a suggestion to Hazel. 

" Let's walk up to the camp, '.:ttle girl" (for so 
he occasionally addressed her now) "and see how 
my men are getting on and what they are doing." 
And she, half-conscious that this meant something 
more, took a light wrap, put on her red mobcap, 
and away they went up the hill and along the 
velvety path through the pines to the camp. They 
did not go close to it, either, just climbed a brown 
bush-covered hillock, to reconnoiter it from am- 
bush, see the men — most of them in lazy abandon, 
and grouped around four who were pitching quoits, 
and then returned along the same path to the big 
pine where Stacy had first seen Hazel and the top 
of her home roof. 

" Let us sit here a few moments," he said, " and 
watch the sunset. I feel like it, too," he added, 
naif sadly, now spreading his top coat he had car- 
, ried on his arm for her to sit upon, " feel the sun- 
set mood, as I always do at the end of a Thanks- 
giving day." 

" But why?" she queried, first glancing at him. 



. .* V W .1.-.,,,.. ■.! II . *^— ™^i^P 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



483 



now seated beside her, then away to where his eyes 
were upon the red ball of fire close to the distant 
hilltop. " Hasn't the day been a pleasant one? " 

" As much so as kind friends could make it," he 
returned briskly ; " delightful, in fact, for I've had 
you for company. Only it is as always to me now, 
a day of bygones. Of memories of boyhood and 
my own home and Thanksgivings there. And the 
minor chord is the stern fact that all who made 
those days red-letter ones, are only memories now. 
Pictures on the walls of my room. Scenes upon 
the tablets of memory. It's the common fate of us 
all, and best kept out of mind. Pardon my mention 

of it. 

" Do you know. Hazel," he continued hurriedly, 
as if wishing to force this retrospective chord out 
of her mind, " the only consolation a sunset has is 
the expectation that the sun will rise again. Again, 
I think, and do not wonder at it, how many mil- 
lions were sun-worshippers once. I am myself, in 
a way, for it is the actual or only visiljle origin of 
all life on this planet. We believe in God or the 
Father of us all, and rightly, but the san is the 
tangible means, after ?,'.l." 

" Yes, of bodily life, animal or vegetable," she 
rejoined earnestly, "but net of soul life — moods, 
emotions, feelings, ambitions — they must come 



484 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 






■hr 



from some other source, I am sure. Aren't you? " 

" Oh, not so sure as I wish I were," he returned, 
shaking his head, " for therein lies all faith in or 
hope of a future life, and while I hope for it, like 
all humanity, I wish I were more sure of it, how- 
ever. Don't you ? " 

" To be candid, yes ; only I have an implicit faith, 
and would hate to have it shaken by contrary proof. 
That must always be a matter of faith. It's our 
soul's only bulwark. 

" I always lose a little faith when the end of 
autumn, with its death of plant-life comes," she 
added, sighing. " That forces the conviction of 
how short our lives are, and how soon I shall come 
to what you have to-day — the living over of by- 
gones and pictures on the walls. I've only father, 
anyway." 

And just then, Stacy, catching the minor chord 
of her mood and its kinship with his own, turned 
and scanned her face in profile. He noted the sad 
little droop to her lips, and how like Evangeline's 
face in expression her own was, and his heart gave 
a leap. If ever she was or would be in occult 
sympathy with him, it was now! 

" Hazel," he said, suddenly reaching and clasping 
one of her hards, "life is short, hope is elusive; I 



fj<^(\ .-M 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



48s 



want you to inspire mine now and for all time! 
Oh, I want you for my very own ! " 

One instant's flash of her eyes meeting his came; 
a look that bared her very soul in the sunset glow ; 
the next she drew ner hand from his and both went 
to her face. 

"Oh, no, no" — chokingly and quivering — "it 
must not be I I cannot leave father ! " 

" But you can promise — sometime," pleaded 
Stacy desperately. " I want you so much I will 
wait a lifetime! My God, I can't give you up! " 

For one long moment she sat, still trembling, then 
turned her eyes to him, a vision of heaven. 

" I cannot say no — always," she whispered 
brokenly, " but you must wait — you know — 
why." 

And then, despite her brief struggle, he gathered 
her to his heart and their lips met. 

Oh, wondrous illusion! Oh, blessed moment! 
Oh, divine thrill! Oh, sublime union of soul and 
impulse to which all else subserves and joins heaven 
and earth, soul and body, life and death, time and 
eternity, as naught else can or should ! It comes 
but once with perfect power through all life's span, 
a soul-absorbing, death-defying, God-uniting in- 
stant of supreme ecstasy! 



If • 

Iff 



I,) 



486 THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

And so it came to these two, created to mate, 
perhaps, upon some other shore of time, some other 
realm where the Supreme Architect of the Universe 
said, " Go forth, you two; become as one, and create 
My world anew ! " 

It was hours later — how passed needs no de- 
scription—when Hazel found her father asleep in 
his armchair beside the dying embers of the sitting- 
room fire. 

" Why, girlie," he exclaimed, wakened now by a 
little arm enclosing his neck and a tear-moist face 
pressed to his, " wliat's liappencd to ye? " 

"What I meant never should," she whispered, 
creeping into his lap and kissing him. " And I — 
I feel mean and happy both! But he is wiUing to 
wait and "— showering kisses upon his face — " I 
couldn't say ' no,' father." 

"Wal, God bless ye, girlie, both on ye," now 
understanding her naive confession as only he could 
and clasping her close. 

For a long five minutes he held her thus, she who 
was more than life to him, then he spoke again. 

" I knowed 'twould come, 'n' it's best so," he 
said softly. " 'n' now I shall feel ye're to be keered 
fer alius ez a woman needs. O' course we got to 
part, I know that, too," he added a moment later. 
" 'n' that's best so, likewise. Ye must be his'n, then 




;.-,j>" t ^_., 



wfi^aF^i 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



487 



— everyways — not mine no more. But we'll liev 
qi'ite a spell together yet, girlie," more cheerfully, 
■' lots o' weeks 'n' months, mcbbe, 'n' we're gt)in' 
to make the most on 'em, too ! We be ! Now go 
to bed 'n' dream o' settin' in a mcdder 'n' hearin' 
the birds singin' all arourd, ez ye ought to ! " 

Then he arose, lifting her to his heart, kissed her, 
plumped her on her feet, and then with a whis- 
pered " Good night. Poppy dear," she left him. 

" It's best so, best so," he said to himself after 
listening to the last pat of her feet on the stairs, 
then pushing the smouldering embers together. 
" But it's goin' to be a cuttin' o' my heart out, jist 
the same." 



^^w???^^^^^^? 



"i'\ ■■'■ 



Hi^lPi 




CHAPTER XL 



1(1 



%'■■ 



WHILE this Thanksgiving Day became a 
red-letter one in Stacy's life-calendar, 
and the beginning of the most alluring 
and poetically beautiful illusion that comes to man, 
Oakdale continued on the even tenor of its way 
without a ripple. The only disturbing factor to 
them was the progress of this new enterprise he 
was engaged upon, and its final result upon the 
town. This i .'rally elicited various opinions; a 
few contending that it would prove an injury by 
bringing in an alien population of foreign habits, 
custotns, and religion, and eventually destroy their 
peaceful life and serenity, while others, and the 
majority, felt confident that it would result in last- 
ing benefit. In the meaniime, Stacy, oblivious to 
all public opinion and enwrapped in the building of 
a new air castle with Hazel as its queen and mis- 
tress, was, '<s Uncle Asa would put it, " sawin' wood 
all the time." 

He built an addition to his rude dining-room for 
his men to occupy during the coming cold weather, 
a portable sawmill was added to his outfit, and as 
488 




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'.. t tr^'j 



..jwv; 



jfe 



m 



m 



p 



THK CASTLE BUILDERS 



489 



soon as tlie swamp froze sufficiently, and snow came, 
he bepan hauling out all available and valuable tim- 
ber. More life and more visitors came to the town, 
Bascom's store was the scene of greater activity 
and divided honors with Sam's hotel as evening 
loafing place for the Old Guard and general news 
agency for Oakdale. A few more traveling men, 
scenting business from afar, and in advance of it, 
as always, made that town an objective point, heard 
what was in prospect, and spread the tidings broad- 
cast. In fact, and as invariably happens, these 
emissaries of trade and progress, first to locate a 
good hotel or customer, were also first to inform 
the outer world that Oakdale had woke up from its 
lethargy, that an e.iterprising firm was erecting a 
big dam to supply it with power, that new indus- 
tries were soon to locate there, factories to be built 
and new dwellings, a harbor was to be created, 
ara rollcy line to connect it with Barre soon 
to be established. Thus were made known all the 
details of Stacy's original air castle, soon to eventu- 
ate and become facts. 

Hazel's future also became assured in the minds 
of all, for a diamond solitaire flashing from her left 
hand the next Sunday after Thanksgiving told her 
love story and its outcome as naught else could. 
Congratulations and cordial good wishes came to 



i -*1J _.-_«.. 





490 TUB CASTLE UUILUERS 

her in al.uiKlance, for she was well beloved by all, 
and the chorus of " I told you so's," and " I knew 
it would happen," sprea.l apace. She and Stacy, 
now known to l« engaged, became the cynosure of 
all eves each Sunday, and also, the target of a few 
mildly envious glances from young and lonely maids 

as well. 

But the one whose life was to be most upset, 
whose future was to become barren, cheerless, un- 
loved, lonely and desolate, yet who would never 
complain or hint it ever, was Uncle Asa himself! 
" I want ye to gin up the school now, girlie," he 
said to her the next day after Hazel had made her 
half-pathetic confession, " 'n' for two reasons. 
Fust, he is perty high strung 'n' won't jist rehsh 
havin' the gal he's cal'latin' to marry walkin" three 
miles a dav to am a matter o' forty dollars a month, 
'n' I don't want it cither. Then ag'in, ye must be- 
gin thinkin" how he's goin" to think 'n' feel on all 
that consarns ye both from now on. In a way, yew 
two hev become ez one, which is nat'ral, 'n' ye must 
figger that way in all ye feel 'n' do. Thar's also 
'nother reason with me. He'll want ye to set the 
day 'long next May or June; it's the marryin' time, 
'n' it's jist ez well ye do. I shall hate to lose ye, 
nobody knows how much, nor never will, but thar 
ain't nothin' gained by markin' time too long; jist 



*fc t • ^ 



•5^5? 



It.JlW.;.." 



_t . y 



*jyyii/^ 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



491 



long 'nufF to git a good ready, then go ahead in 
the march o' Hfe 'n' pursuit o' happiness. Kow 
this bein' the case, ez 'twill he, all I kin hev o' you 
is 'iKJUt six months more, 'n' not many evcnin's o' 
Miem cither. Hut wliat time tliar is, 1 want, every 
wakin' minute on't, 'n' when ye go, I'm goin' to jist 
grin 'n' bear it, thinkin' it's ftr the best, 'n' ycw're 
happy." 

Of cour.se Hazel assured him that she had no 
intention of deserting liini in si.K months or six 
years even! That while she h,id .said "yes" to 
Stacy's proposal, it was with a " sometime " and 
" long-way-off " proviso, and then only in hir own 
good time, will, and plca;ure. 

" I have said I never intci' I'd to leave von. 
father, and T meant it," she assured him in conclu- 
sion, " and you know why I fee! so. I presiimi' I 
can be happy with Stacy, but you arc si ill fust in my 
feelings, and he can wait. It won't hurl him, either, 
and it's better he should do so, and learn all my 
faults 'ipf .re we take the fatal step; also give me 
time ic aarn his, for I am not sure he is quite 
perfect yet. You once said one person needed 
to winter and summer another to know him. N'ow 
I am going to heed your advice and winter and sum 
mer Stacy may be two or three times before I give 
myself to him for good." 



17^ 



492 THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

" That's good sense, girlie," her father responded, 
smiHng at her benignly and in wise manner, " but 
■twon't work out the way ye figger. Ye may thmk 
ye see faults in him now; they won't seem so arter 
a month or two o' courtin', cause that's a part o' 
Natur' 'n' the laws o' love. If he's fit to be yewrs 
'n' yew his, ye'll both feel more sure on't day by 
day, and petty fast, too, or ye'd better not hitch up 
at all. I cal'late, too, ye'd do the same if ye wa'n t 
fitted fer one 'nother. It's a kind o' head-'n'-heart 
crazy spell, this fallin' in love is, 'n' ez fer seem' 
faults while it lasts, ye won't and can't. Ye've got 
to jist shut your eyes, go it blind, 'n' say, ' Hope to 
God it'll pan out all right.' It may, 'n it may not, 
that's the luck o' life, but yew can't, 'n' no gal ever 
did see any serious faults in a man arter she'd said 
' yes ' to him. I think yew two'U pan out all right 
•n' be happy. If I hadn't. I'd never took ye both 
down to the shore that fust day 'n' gin ye the chance 
o' meetin' ez I did. The fact is, I got a line on 
him the day I took him fishin' fust, I've kep' watch 
o' him since, clusser'n you hev, knowin' what was 
brewin', 'n' now, not bein' in love with him myself. 
I kin see him better'n yew kin." 

What her father wished and believed was law 
with Hazel, and while conscious that this new and 



M 



r^TBEl^ 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



493 



sweet illusion would, or might blind her to Stacy's 
faults, she was sure that her father saw him as he 
was and trusted him accordingly. Beyond that 
or beneath it, lay the stronger tie of filial affection 
that made her feel this new bond to be secondary, 
and her father first in any and all matters pertaining 
to his happiness. When Stacy came, as he now did 
almost every evening, she would permit only a 
seldom all-by-themselves one for him, but her father 
must share it in his easy chair by the fire ; and while, 
like all lovers, they now and then secured a brief 
privacy, it was short and, of course — sweet. In 
fact, as may be inferred from Hazel's make-up and 
mental scope, the soft nothings and co2y<orner 
caressings of average lovers were not for her. In 
this connection she now recalled an observation her 
father had once made years before to a nephew 
about to be married. 

" Go a leetle slow, my boy, a leetle slow in this 
ere love business," he had said to him then, " 'n' 
don't be wantin' to kiss her all the time, fust go off. 
Jist rec'lect ye've got a good many years on't ahead, 
'n' ye kin kiss her when ye want to, 'n' when ye 
don't want to ! " 

With Hazel, and in line with her valuation of 
herself and her readiness for becoming bored, she 



494 THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

did not intend to permit any " not wanted" kisses 
from Stacy, or allow the Ogre of Satiety to enter 
their garden. 

I„ deference to her father's wishes, she gave up 
her school at close of the fall term soon after 
Thanksgiving, and now with a few more late Indian 
Summer days fortunately vouchsafed them, she and 
her father began to make the most of them. Of 
course there were trips to the shore where she, wel 
wrapped, kept him company, and to watch him pull 
his lobster pots was one pleasure. They dug clams, 
cooked cozy little dinners of sea food and ate them 
there as they had done countless times since her 
childhood, and on the same oft-used table, or if too 
cold in the ancient fish house. They took long 
strolls on the beach, hand in hand, watching the sea 
gulls, the incoming waves, and finding queer bits of 
wreckage and the floatsam and jetsam of the sea 
cast up by them. They gathered quantities of 
shells, curiously worn and polished stones, and 
sailors' money purses, like two children, and leaving 
them in the fish house for a future use they both 
understood intuitively but never mentioned; and 
one dav, when a half-gale forbade any pulhng of 
pots, they devoted the most of their time to picking 
up driftwood and keeping a fire going within a 
wind-sheltered nook amid the sand dunes. To this 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



495 



nook, also, Uncle Asa brought his few cooking 
utensils and boards from the table, and after making 
ready to cook a dinner, left Hazel here to watch the 
fire while he secured a mess of clams near the bor- 
ders of the upshooting rush of monster billows. In 
this " wind-loved coign," as Hazel named it, he, a 
little later, steamed his catch of clams, broiled a 
couple of lobsters taken from his car inside of the 
sandspit, made a pot of coffee, and here, thus pro- 
tected and kept warm, not ten rods from the white- 
crested breakers booming and crashing on the shore, 
they ate what was their last dinner beside the oce:. .. 
A few days later, and so cold that her father would 
not bring Hazel, he came down, took up his pots 
and bait net, drew his lobster car ashore and took 
out the few left in it, also stored and packed all his 
belongings in or near the fish house. Then, and 
so like a lover was he towards his well-beloved 
girlie, he gathered driftwood, built a fire within the 
wind-protected nook and cooked and ate his dinner 
here — all alone. 

" I s'pose I've got to git used to it," he now said 
to himself, reflectively, and freshening the fire after 
the meal while he smoked, " but it's goin' to come 
hard, mighty hard ! Curis, curis. how our feelin's 
is all thar is to livin' an' doin' all the time, 'n' all 
fer somebody else? Fust, it was her mother, then 



»(l 



496 THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

Hazel, 'n' now — wal, now God only knows how 
I'm goin' to git along 'n' stand it, 'n' He won't tell! 
Nothin' ahead fer me but a six-foot hole, 'n' soon, 
too, mebbe the sooner the better! Wal, it's aU fer 
the best 'n' her, all fer the best, but it's hard! " 

Then this true philosopher who had always lived 
for others, tried to see the silver lining and hear 
larks in the sky, and was now ready to face an un- 
loved old age and grim death, believing that all was 
for the best, added more fuel to the fire, filled and 
lit his pipe anew, and sat and watched the flames a 
'.tie longer in solitude. Later, he took a long look 
ground this dear, loved spot, the miles of lonely 
shore, the sand dunes rising back of it, the clump of 
almost leafless scrub oaks where his table stood, the 
blackened fireplace stones and fish house, and said, 
" Good-bye, old spot, till spring comes," then rowed 
up the winding creek, feeling that he had bade adieu 
to the only friend of his few remaining years. 

Winter and snow came next to Oakdale, and a 
shut-in life for Uncle Asa, with chores and wood- 
chopping his only diversion, except the always too- 
short evenings while Hazel played or sang, or else 
used all her arts to draw him into conversation with 
Stacy and herself. He made occasional journeys 
to the dam site, however, to visit with Stacy, watch 
its growing progress in spite of snow and winter 



in 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



497 



cold, hear the ring of axes far away in the swamp 
and the crash of falling trees again, or the newer 
chirr and whirr of the movable sawmill, now reduc- 
ing logs to boards and beams for the power house. 
And here, one day, he asked his first favor from 
Stacy. 

" I'm goin' to build me a shack down by the shore 
in the spring," he said to him then, " jist a two- 
room one in the pocket whar we pitched our tents 
last fall. Not much o' one, either, only big enough 
fer me to live in in summer, some day. I'd like a 
fireplace in it, too — a fire's a heap o' company 
evenin's — 'n' jist a bit o' piazza in front. Ef 
you'll kinder plan it 'bout right, git out the stuff 
this winter, 'n' haul that 'n' stone enough to the 
shore, I'll pay the bill, 'n' do the rest myself when 
spring comes." 

" I will," returned Stacy briskly, " and at no cost 
to you. Only I want to put up a larger one than 
you say — three rooms in it — so we can all go there 
sometimes and have a lot of comfort, as I know we 



And so, knowing Uncle Asa's plans and intentions 
as he now did — in fact, they had already been dis- 
cussed by Hazel and himself — Stacy set about 
this labor of love. He detailed a competent man to 
draw plans and specifications, the frame and boards 



498 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



'■ [ ■! 



were soon sawed, and these with stone for under- 
pinning and fireplace were next hauled to the shore. 
More than that, and meaning to surprise Uncle Asa, 
he took workmen there as soon as the first spring 
days came, in a quiet manner, and within a month, 
a pretty little three-room cottage with an ell for 
cook-room, a rain-water tank on top of that, with 
piazza on three sides, stood where they had once 
camped. Hazel was also informed of the intended 
surprise ; she and Stacy made several trips to Barre, 
and by the time the maples enclosing her home were 
growing green, the summer cottage that love had 
built for Uncle Asa to enjoy his shore life in was 
all ready for him. Hazel's thoughts had gone be- 
yond her own new illusion and plans; and every 
comfort and convenience possible for her father to 
use or enjoy here was added by her, even to a large 
photograph of herself framed and hung over the 
mantel above the fireplace. Then, as if to add the 
one final touch most suggestive of herself, she ex- 
plained what she wanted to Stacy : a rod-square pit 
was dug in the sand in front of the cottage and 
filled with loam, a low wall of stones built around 
it, and here she planted or set out all the (lowers it 
would hold. 
To her, also, knowing what was in store for her 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



499 



father's feelings, this last act seemed akin to the 
selection of a burial plot for him. 

To acquaint him with her own future plans, was 
also perhaps the hardest task she felt called upon 
to perform. So much so, that she postponed it 
for weeks after they were agreed upon between her- 
self and Stacy, and the date for their wedding 
named by her. But it must be done, and one even- 
ing, the first one warm enough to leave doors and 
windows open, and when the frogs were peeping 
and piping their joy over returning spring, she went 
to her father after Stacy had left her and made her 
confession. 

" Father," she whispered, creeping into his lap 
where he sat all alone in the kitchen and enclosing 
his neck with one arm, " we — we are to be married 
in May after the dam is done, and I — he wants me 
to live in Albion, he says. Oh, I hate to tell you, 
father." 

" O' course, girlie, o' course," he returned with 
well-assumed cheerfulness. " I s'pected that, 'n' 
it's all right so long's yew're happy." Then, as if 
this marked the beginning of the end, he clasped 
her with one arm and began stroking her face and 
hair. 

" We have planned a little surprise for you, poppy 



500 THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

dear," she continued pleadingly, as if to soften the 
blow, " just the prettiest and coziest cottage by the 
sea, and all done now ! But you must promise not 
to go there till we — we go away. Then you — 
may be you won't miss me quite so much after 
that ! " 

It was all said, t.e blow given, and no more words 
needed between these two who had been one in 
reeling so many years. Only a little closer clasp 
came from him, while both her arms were around 
his neck now, with a warm flushed face and tear- 
wet eyes against his wrinkled cheek. 

For a long half-hour after Hazel left him, he still 
sat in his chair living over bygones, unconscious 
even of the tall clock's solemn tick, then arose and 
went outside to look around, as he often had before 
retiring on summer nights. The brook beside the 
lane he now followed down laughed and chattered 
as usual, but he heard it not. A half-moon low in 
the west outlined the winding creek, the vista of 
broad meadow, and cast a silver sheen upon the dis- 
tant ocean, but he saw it not. To the right lay the 
village, and above it that more suggestive one with 
its serried rows of white and brown stones. Only 
this caught and held his eyes with consciousness of 
its nearness in his life's journey, and that Hazel 
was his no more in love and spirit; that another 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



501 



soul had mated with hers and the parting of their 
ways was at hand. 

" It's got to come, got to come, 'n' the last o' 
askin'," he said to himself resolutely now, his eyes 
still upon the rows of stones, " but she mustn't know 
how hard 'tis ! How hard 'tis I " 

Once more he glanced' up at the starry sky, the 
moon's bright crescent, then down to the bordering 
ocean with its silvered path. This he now scanned 
steadily for a long time, as if it promised the path 
into another life and another world, then sighed 
and turned away. 

. " No, she mustn't know it, npver, never ! " he 
said to himself once more, then faced about. And 
still unconscious of the night's charm, the rifts of 
moonlight glinting through the half-leaved maples, 
or the brook's low lullaby, he walked with bowed 
head up the lane and entered the silent house. 



CHAPTER XLI 



ii 



!•'.! 



-■4 



WITH some good luck and more push, Stacy 
was enabled to place the last cai< stone of 
his dam in position a week ahead of the 
date he had set for the final lowering of its gate. 
Then came the grand May-day bonfire, or a hundred 
of them, scattered over the swamp area, with Uncle 
Asa, Hazel, Sam, and the Old Guard watching it 
from a hilltop, and that night the men were paid 
off and given a concluding banquet. They in turn 
gave a sort of medley concert of songs and danc- 
ing, with half the townsfolk for audience that even- 
ing, and next day all but a dozen of the most skilled 
workmen departed. 

And so closed the working part of transforming 
Bear Hole Swamp into a storage reservoir whose 
ultimate possibility was the completion of Stacy's 
air-castle city. 

The power house was yet to be built by the men 
he had retained for that purpose, and a'ter that a 
cable must be laid to transmit its electric results over 
the hills and th -ugh the woods to Barre. To 
entertain all Oakuale with an old-fashioned clam- 
502 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



503 



bake came next, and for this Stacy now prepared 
by detailing his retained men to dig a dozen barrels 
of clams, and ordering an ample supply of lobsters, 
sweet potatoes, and other necessaries sent over from 
Barre. Uncle Asa, of course, superintended this 
important event ; Bert, the faithful Ike, and Stacy's 
aunt came up from Albion the day previous to it; 
Hazel, with a bevy of her girl friends around her, 
broke a bottle of wine over the big flower-decked 
gate as it was lowered into place, and christened the 
dam " Our New City." The clambake, served on 
tables under the pine trees just below, came next, 
around which nearly all Oakdale gathered. Stacy 
made a little speech of felicitation, and this con- 
cluded the first part of an episode that had stirred 
the hamlet as naught ever had before, and was 
still likely to continue its piquant interest. Hazel, 
with the tactful consideration that was hers, insisted 
that Stacy's aunt accept the hospitality of her home, 
and that evening Colby proflfered a few terse con- 
gratulations to Stacy at the hotel, that may well be 
quoted. 

I am fully satisfied with what you have done, 
my boy," he said to him, smilingly, and in his usual 
direct way. " You have chosen well and built well 
so far as the dam goes, and more so in the girl. I 
am not surprised you fell in love with her and 






504 THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

forgot Albion for eight months, as you have. I 
,houM, had I been your age and fancy free, for she 
, a prize-winner among girls and well worth roses 
at any price. Ike can manage matters here wh.le 
you are off honeymooning, in fact, there ,s no need 
of your staying here after your we. .ng. Our 
business needs you in Albion." 

And so Fate and cold biisir:css calculation brought 
about what Uncle Asa knew at heart was m store 
for him - a lone and cheerless old age 

A week later, it was consummated, when all fem- 
inine OaKdale and many of Uie masculine element 
cr. vded its principal church to witness that event. 
Uf course. Hazel was a beautiful bride - all br.des 
are, a little way off -but she was exqu.s.te, even 
close at hand, and Stacy had ample reason to feel 
proud that he could now call so sweet, so wise, and 
so tactful a maid his own, for weal or woe for joy 
or sorrow, " until death do you part,' as the clergy- 
man said in conclusion. 

A little spread was served at her home to those 
nearest and dearest to both, during which Uncle Asa 
tried his best to be optimistic, cheerful, aud humor- 
ous, and to add all possible good cheer It was 
forced, however, as Hazel knew full well, for she 
could read his heart as none else could. 

" I want ye to stop 'n' say good-bye to me, g.rbe. 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



505 



under the apple tree where we counted the money," 
he whispered to her near the conclusion of these fes- 
tivities. " I can't do it here 'thout givin' way. 
Jist drive by a couple o' rods, 'n' come to me fer the 
last of askin'. Yew understa.. i " 

Then he bit his lips and turned away. And only 
supreme will power kept Hazel from bursting into 
tears there and then. 

She planned the parting moment, also, with her 
usual tact, even requesting Stacy to tell the driver 
just where to halt their carriage and not look 
around to witness her leave-taking from her father. 

It came about, also, as both wished, and a half- 
hour later Uncle Asa in ambush b.ick of a cluster 
of green-leaved bushes beneath the apple tree — 
once the scene of another touch of pathos — saw 
their carriage halt just beyond "iid Hazel leap out. 

And the next instant she was in his arms and sob- 
bing! 

" Don't take on so, girlie, don't, fer God's sake." 
he whispered chokingly and with a last desperate 
effort to hide his feelings. " Ye're goin' to be 
happy 'n' I want ye to start of! smilin'! I don't 
want ye 'round no more either, I tell ye ! I — I — " 
Then the rush of feeling conquered all will power 
and shook his great frame with mighty force. 

" Don't think o' me, 'n' don't miss mc, my God's 




5o6 THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

blessin'," he whispered, now kissing her upraised 
face and clasping her closer still. 

One long moment she sobbed in his arms, unable 
to speak, then he pushed her from him. 

"Now go," he said firmly, " 'n' God bless ye! 
God bless ye alius!" 

And so they parted. 



ri'-iKff^Aiaifri 



CHAPTER XLII 

IT was almost sunset that May day when Uncle 
Asa once more pulled his old brown dory along- 
side the little wharf in the cove, stepped ashore, 
made it fast, crossed the ridge of sand, and looked 
over the wide ocean like one in a trance. At his 
feet, almost, the incming swells curled over and 
crashed in low, booming mono* ne, and upshot of 
yeasty foam. To the left, where an out-jutting 
curve of pebbles met them, came a clicking, as of 
dry bones, after each receding wave. To the right, 
and for miles away, the same persistent, sullen men- 
ace of defiant sound, along the white-fring-d, lone, 
and lonely shore. In front, and bordered by the 
purple shadow of coming night, lay the broad ocesn, 
white-crested, dim, mysterious, and sublime. 

For a long moment he stood there, hearing only 
that clicking rattle and sullen rumble, and knowing 
that desolation and utter loneliness was his to face. 
Then he turned and saw the red-roofed cottage Love 
had built for him, peering out from its coign be- 
tween the sand dunes. 

507 




-I 

I 



H 



508 THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

And just now it seemed like a mausoleum await- 
ing his final occupancy ! 

He walked slowly towards it, grimly conscious 
that it was almost that, after all, and his plan to 
find peace and content here, as hopeless. 

And then Hazel's heart and soul spoke to him ! 
First, in the little circle of flowers, now abloom in 
front, next, in the two willow rockers side by side 
on the cottage piazza, and more lovingly, in the 
cozily furnished sitting-room he now entered. An 
open fireplace, with white birch wood ready to light, 
smiled at him from one side. Above that — and 
next noticed — was a large framed photograph of 
herself, and beside the fireplace a waiting easy chair. 
A jar of tobacco stood on the mantel, two bronze 
figures — a fisherman in sou' -wester and girl in sun 
hat with a basket of flowers on her arm — flanked 
that, and a pipe rack with a medley of pipes filled 
the space between picture and mantel. In one cor- 
ner of the room, also, and as if it meant to recall 
Hazel's last visit here with him, stood a what-not, 
upon which were all the shells and sea-curios they 
had gathered then. A monster bunch of lilacs and 
roses upon a center-table perfumed the room and 
proved her presence there that day. Beside this lay 
her auto-harp and a pile of books, while a rattan 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 509 

sofa, more chairs, lace curtains, and marine pic- 
tures on the walls completed the room's furnishings. 
And yet, while love and money had been lavished 
here without stint, it still seemed to him like a fur- 
nished tomb! 

"God bless ye, girlie, God bless ye!" he ex- 
claimed, after his look around and eyes upon her 
smiling face. " Ye've done all ye could, all ye 
could, but it's you I need most." Then and dazed 
still by his own hopeless mood, he drew the portieres 
aside and entered the next room. 

He found a table set for three with snowy napery, 
another vase of flowers, and sideboard loaded with 
more dishes and glassware. And opening into this, 
a sleeping room with white iron bed, bay window, 
straw matting, and white mull enclosing the dress- 
ing-case mirror. To the rear of this dainty dining- 
room, was the kitchen, with stove, ice<hest, white 
sink, curtained shelves and box of wood in one cor- 
ner. And, as if his plan ti come here and 
fight his heartache out alone hao jeen understood by 
Hazel, he found ice, meat, milk, butter, and two 
baskets of strawberries in the ice-chest, and bread, 
cake, and pies on the curtained shelves! All that 
was lacking was a woman's hand and care to cook 
and serve a meal, and her face and smile to add its 



'T 



510 THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

welcome. But the only one that could, had gone 
out of his life for all time! Was only a memory 
now 1 A picture on the wall I 

To cook or eat now he could not, was not even 
conscious of hunger! On the morrow he might be, 
for body will in time dominate all heart or soul, all 
joy or sorrow ! But not yet. And so with bowed 
head, and all that had been done for him only add- 
ing to his desolation, he returned to tht sitting-room 
and Hazel's pictured face. 

And now, a new pathos was adding to those soul- 
ful eyes by the sunset glow, and a more tender and 
pitying smile to her lips. It was as if she were 
looking down upon him from a world he could not 
enter. A farewell from somewhere on the shores 
of time where light and life and love still ruled, 
while he was entering the shadows of oblivion. 
Conscious only of this, that but a few more years of 
heart-hunger with naught to hope for awaited him, 
then the serrated village on the hillside, he sat down 
and bowed his face within his hands. 

" It's hard to bear, harder'n I s'posed," he said 
to himself now with grim resolution, " but I've got 
to I Got to do it, that's all ! She 's happy anyhow, 
that's some comfort! " 

For a long time he sat there in the silent, darken- 
ing room, eyes closed, face bowed upon his hands, 



THE CASTLE BUILDERS 



5" 



and unconscious of all else except his own hopeless 
desolation. All his life next passed in review. His 
first boyish illusions and ambitions, the continued 
living in to-morrow, with brighter and better days 
beyond, the fair girl — Hazel's counterpart — that 
had entered his life midway of its course. Hazel's 
coming, the few and best of all years after that, 
then the break that seemed like the sun's blotting 
out, with only Hazel left. How she had grown into 
his life like a benediction year by year, the count- 
less times they had been as two children on this 
very shore, and iinally the coming of this soul-mate 
he had hoped would care for and protect her future. 
That had come about as he wished, but it meant 
more to him than he ever dreamed, a severance 
more hopeless. All this he lived over in the silent 
room with only the waves' solemn monotone echo- 
ing his saddened thoughts. 

Then he looked up! 

The room was quite dark now. Hazel's face had 
vanished, and only starlight outlined the nearest 
window. 

It seemed like the open portal of a tomb to him ! 

And now the ocean's voice grew louder and more 
varied. A child's laughter, a woman's sob, a mur- 
mur of tones, like an auto-harp, and woven into all 
the faint rattle and click of those pebbles! And 




■m<' 



512 THE CASTLE BUILDERS 

then came a hollow sound resolving itself into 
"Gone-away! Gone-away! Gone-away !" far down 
the shore. 

Footsteps crept around on the piazza I A whis- 
per came from the inner rooms! Hazel's voice 
reaching him from afar, from another world may 
bel 

And hearing this, once more he raised his eyes 
to that pictured face above him, but vainly, for the 
pall of darkness hid even its frame ! 

Then, without hope, alone in the gloom quivering 
with that measured requiem of the waves, he bowed 
his head, a great sob burst from his heart and tears 
came. 

And just then, like a spirit's presence. Hazel's 
arms were clasping his neck and her face pressed to 
his! 

" Why must we love, 'n' suffer fer it? My God, 
why must we ? " he whispered to her. 
But only the ocean answered. 



THE END 



\i 



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edges, picture cover. Six illnstrationa by Rose Cedl 

O'Neill, iimo. ft 50, postpaid. 

Maik Twain wrHea to the author i " It cost me my day 
yesterday. Vou owe me I400. But never mind, I forgive 
you for the book's sake." 

LoobvUIe Courler-Jounul uyi i " If 'here is such a thing 
as the American novel of a new method, this is one. Abso- 
lutely to be enjoyed is it from the first page to the last." 

Harry Thurston Peck, in the New York Amcrlam, sayat 
" The very best two books written by Americans during the 
past year have been ' The Spenders,' by Harry Leon WUson, 
and ' The Pit,' by Frank Norris." 

Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Co., Boston 



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